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Guildford and Waverley Councils Agree Next Partnership Step But Opposition Parties Sound Warnings

Published on: 3 Aug, 2022
Updated on: 3 Aug, 2022

By Martin Giles

A decision to recruit a senior team of directors and chief executive to be shared between Guildford and Waverley Borough Councils will save £430,000 per year compared with the previous structure, GBC claims.

But Sallie Barker, chair of the Guildford Conservative Association, is concerned about the impact of the arrangement.

She said: “We welcome efficiency savings, however, we await the publication of GBC’s accounts before we can comment on the effectiveness of savings achieved to date.

Sallie Barker

“Any savings must not be at the expense of the delivery of day-to-day council services for residents. Unfortunately, we are already seeing poor staff morale and retention problems at GBC, which won’t be helped by senior staff no longer being exclusively focussed on Guildford.”

The two borough councils have taken the next step in their partnership by approving the appointment of three joint strategic directors who, with joint chief executive Tom Horwood, will lead the officer team of both councils.

Last year, the councils agreed to work together in a partnership aimed at sustaining and improving local services in the face of disappearing government funding and increasing demand for services.

Earlier this year, they agreed the legal basis for the partnership and began the recruitment of the joint management team.

A Joint Appointments Committee, comprised of six councillors from across political groups in both councils, has overseen the recruitment and selection of the three joint strategic directors. The councils have now approved their appointments at their July full council meetings, and the directors took up their new roles on August 1.

Left to right – Ian Doyle, Annie Righton, Dawn Hudd and Tom Horwood.

The new joint strategic directors are:

  • Annie Righton – Community Wellbeing
  • Dawn Hudd – Place
  • Ian Doyle – Transformation & Governance

In a press release, the two councils said that they will now continue the process of creating the new senior management team, including the next tier down of senior managers, who will lead the service areas across both councils and be responsible for developing business cases for further joint working.

The collaboration aims to help both councils cut costs by reducing the duplication of work, increasing efficiency and purchasing power, providing better value for money for residents and helping to protect local public services. The partnership is one of the largest between borough councils in the country, providing local services to 272,000 residents.

Cllr Joss Bigmore

GBC leader, Joss Bigmore said: “These key posts support our Joint Chief Executive Tom Horwood to ensure our services are delivered and our financial targets are achieved.

“Next they are recruiting for joint heads of service across both councils and together they will make up the joint management team. We continue to operate in challenging times and working more closely will make us stronger for the future.”

Leader of Waverley Borough Council, Paul Follows, said: “We face continued cuts from the government that will effectively see Waverley Borough Council’s funding fall to zero over the next four years. This comes at a time when we are facing intense pressure from higher costs and increasing demand for our services, as we try to protect our communities from the worst of the cost of living crisis.

Cllr Paul Follows

“After over a decade of cuts, we are nearing the limit of the efficiency savings and cost-cutting that can be achieved on our own. By working together with Guildford and combining the strengths of our two officer teams, we expect to not only make efficiency savings but also to be able to improve our local services and protect them for the future.”

Brian Creese, chair of the Guildford Labour Party remained sceptical. He said: “Frankly, we’ve always believed this to be an ill-advised project.  Guildford jettisoned its experienced chief executive at great expense.  Now they are reducing the senior management team from five to just three which suggests there was excess capacity at that level. Frankly, this is nonsense, and it seems inevitable that services are likely to get even worse as a result.

Brian Creese

“The council doesn’t seem to have considered alternatives such as sharing of best practice in each authority so that both improve without the huge costs of staff and structural changes – they simply rushed into this project with little thought or planning.

“Guildford Borough Council is now in a dreadful state: we know customer service is in meltdown, there are huge delays in planning and housing maintenance, it has enacted scandalous cuts to the Citizens Advice service, closed facilities like public toilets while throwing away money on poorly planned projects such as the Stoke Park paddling pool.

“Unsurprisingly we understand that morale is rock bottom and inevitably good council staff will migrate to places with more stable environments.”

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