6th Dec, 2016

Council branded 'billy no mates' after joint working arrangements break down

Stratford Editorial 19th Feb, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

STRATFORD District Council has been accused of becoming a ‘billy no mates’ after service sharing agreements with neighbouring councils broke down.

The authority first began to explore the possibility of joint working with Cherwell District Council (CDC) and South Northamptonshire Council (SNC) in 2012.

Shortly afterwards, the three councils agreed to pit their resources and share a number of services, which led to them being given two government cash handouts totaling more than £1.5million.

Faced with increasing budget pressures however, the councils were forced to look at ways to reduce their running costs.

One of these was to create a ‘confederation model’ structure that could provide the potential to trade and work with additional partners.

But while Cherwell and South Northamptonshire were happy to explore the confederation model, Stratford said it would only consider sharing services through joint working.

Both councils have since chosen to adopt the confederation approach – leaving Stratford out in the cold.

A report is set to be produced on the future of the current shared services – legal and IT – and the existing arrangements will stay in place until that report has been considered.

But this week it was revealed no new service sharing agreements would be developed between the three councils.

The announcement prompted Stratford opposition Lib Dem leader, Peter Moorse, to hit out at the Conservative-run authority.

He said: “This is the third time attempts at sharing services have collapsed. For some reason the Conservatives just don’t seem to be able to reach agreement with other councils.

“They’ve tried Warwick, they’ve tried Malvern Hills and now Cherwell and South Northants – and none of them have worked.

“Stratford is in danger of running out of options and becoming the ‘billy no mates’ of the municipal world.”

Responding to the criticism, council leader Chris Saint, branded Coun Moorse’s comment childish.

He added: “The recent citizen’s survey shows my administration delivers reliable, value-for-money services and we will not allow potential partners to derail our ability to do so.

“The service sharing arrangements collapsed as SNC promoted a confederation approach. Cherwell agreed but we rejected the approach as not being in the best interests of our residents.”

Coun Moorse said the breakdown would have ‘significant financial implications’ with joint working expected to save in the region of £100,000 by 2018/19.

And he maintained the council should work more closely with Warwick district, which he claimed was seen by many as its ‘natural partner.’

But Coun Saint added: “SDC already share some services with Warwick and other local authorities. We will not put all our eggs in one basket but are open to collaborative arrangements where partners share our ambition to keep down costs.”

The authority must make a number of budget cuts and among those to be considered is axing the chief executive post currently held by Paul Lankester.