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GBC Executive Approves Next Stage of Collaboration with Waverley

Published on: 28 Nov, 2023
Updated on: 2 Dec, 2023

By Martin Giles

Plans to “move forward” the collaboration between Guildford and Waverley Borough Councils have been approved by GBC’s Executive.

The collaboration, which includes a joint senior management team, was instigated under the former Lib Dem/R4GV coalition administration as a cost-cutting measure.

Update: see R4GV comment below.

A GBC spokesperson said: “There are clear, tangible financial benefits to the collaboration that both councils are already seeing. Our joint management team costs nearly £900,000 less per year than the previous two teams. We expect further savings and efficiencies over time as the details of more partnership working develop.”

Waverley’s lead councillors will meet today (November 28) to discuss the programme’s recommendations. If they agree, both councils will start the Transformation and Collaboration Programme. The programme will allow more ways of joint working, including:

  • looking at shared workforce options
  • looking at the feasibility of a joint headquarters
  • commitment to necessary financial commitment
  • joint Executive meetings to progress the programme and work together.

Council leader, Julia McShane (Lib Dem Westborough), said: “Yesterday’s meeting marked a significant milestone in our collaboration with Waverley. This decision demonstrates our commitment to a joint vision.

“We know it’s important to take things step by step in our decision-making. We will carefully consider potential changes over time. Any changes we’ll make will protect local services, be in the best interests of our community and make both our councils financially stronger in the long term.

“The savings our joint work has already achieved shows the success of our joint management team. Building on this success, we eagerly anticipate exploring further collaborative opportunities.

“Together, we aspire to create a brighter future for our communities. Our collaboration will help us drive meaningful change for improved service delivery. We know that our two councils working together will pave the way for our boroughs to thrive.”

Cllr Philip Brooker

But the leader of the Conservative group at GBC, Philip Brooker (Worplesdon), remains sceptical. He said: “Guildford Conservatives have been concerned for some time over whether this collaboration is cost-effective especially as there are significant financial issues which need to be resolved where part-time officers cannot be the answer.

“We have also seen a high turnover of senior officers from the “shared” arrangement, which may indicate other complications; in any event, there will always be a strong learning curve for each new officer.

“I am not convinced that sufficient cost-benefit analysis has been carried out that demonstrates that officer productivity has not been diluted due to enhanced responsibilities that may have led to poor and costly decision-making, and I will be asking for details on this very shortly.”

Cllr James Walsh

And the leader of the Labour group, James Walsh (Bellfields & Slyfield), also expressed doubts: “We have several concerns about the transformation and collaboration programme between the two councils, not least of which is the fact that each council is in a very different place in terms of finance and governance.

“While Waverley is in a relatively stable position compared with most of the other Surrey district councils, Guildford will have to make a lot of tough decisions to balance its books and avoid a Section 114 notice in the new year. In addition, there are serious problems around governance within its housing repairs department that require a concentrated effort to resolve and we are aware of at least one other similar issue in another department.

“So, while saving money is top of the agenda at the moment – thanks mainly to the Conservative government’s decade of cuts – we believe that reducing staff and doubling up on jobs will be counter-productive – not least because of the disparity between the two councils.”

He added: “Should more jobs go and more staff be faced with doubling-up, we fear that Guildford will be the big loser at a time when it needs the greater focus.”

Cllr Joss Bigmore

But the leader of Residents for Guildford and Villages (R4GV) group, Joss Bigmore, said further collaboration was not coming quickly enough. He said: “I am pleased that the two Executive members have restated their commitment to further collaboration but remain frustrated at the speed at which they operate. I would have preferred to see hard deadlines for decisions and specific financial targets.

“Whilst they are ‘looking’ at options and feasibility they are prolonging the uncertainty for both the workforce and residents who worry about their jobs or the services they currently enjoy.  It was an opportunity to be bold and visionary which unfortunately was not taken, we have timid administrations more worried about the upcoming general election campaigns than taking the difficult decisions that our boroughs need to be financially sustainable in the future.”


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