ONLINE POLL: Councils pair up to stave off cutbacks

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Bolsover and North East Derbyshire district councils are planning a strategic alliance to save £1.5m for frontline services.

The move could see the councils sharing a chief executive and senior management as they try to deal with severe Government cuts.

Bolsover District Council is facing cutbacks from Westminster of almost one-quarter over the next two years and the authority’s leader, Coun Eion Watts, says this has helped to ‘concentrate minds’.

“We have been working jointly with North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield and Derbyshire Dales for some time and this seems like a logical next step,” Coun Watts said this week.

“It is a positive step forward and it is going to make big savings for both of us.”

Councillors at the two authorities will have an opportunity to debate the proposals before they are finalised - at North East Derbyshire on 28th February and at Bolsover on 1st March.

And Coun Watts insists residents will not notice any difference in the services they receive.

“People on the street will not be affected,” he said. “They come into contact with the refuse collector, the grass cutter or someone doing their repairs, not the chief executive.”

But the plans could see the loss of 23 jobs if posts are shared between the two authorities.

Discussions about the plan are at an advanced stage and if the alliance is formed, the councils will move immediately to appoint a joint chief executive and senior management team.

They will then look at other ways to share costs and expertise and deliver further major savings.

But Coun Watts says the authorities will retain their individual identities and operate in the same political and geographical administrative areas.

They would continue to provide the same types of services and would not seek to form a ‘unitary’ council.

In a joint statement issued this week, Coun Watts and Graham Baxter, of North East Derbyshire District Council, said: “This would be a natural alliance of two excellent authorities that border each other and offer similar services, to a very high standard.

“Over recent years we have been working more closely to share some services, pool expertise and save money.

“The latest phase of this collaboration took place in January when we launched our joint ICT service.

“Establishing a more formal and strategic alliance could help ensure that essential services to local communities – some of which are amongst the most deprived in the UK – will be protected in the face of the massive spending cuts forced on us by the Coalition Government.

“We have not been able to control the huge scale of the Government-imposed cuts, but we can control how we meet the challenges ahead.

“Forming an alliance would be a way to ensure we continue to provide excellent services whilst delivering big savings for local people.”

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