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Guildford Councillors Agree Next Step for Partnership With Waverley

Published on: 7 Apr, 2022
Updated on: 9 Apr, 2022

The collaboration between Guildford and Waverley Borough Councils took another step forward this week with the agreement by GBC councillors at their full council meeting on Tuesday (April 5) on the legal framework for the partnership.

The “Heads of Terms for the Inter Authority Agreement” (IAA) sets out the principles of how the two organisations will work together, how assets will be used, how staff will work for both councils, and how savings will be shared.

It also contains a formal dispute resolution process, should the two councils be unable to reach agreement on a particular issue.

Tom Horwood

Completing the agreement represents the next major milestone for the collaboration programme after Tom Horwood was appointed joint chief executive of both councils, at the end of last year.

Mr Horwood and a cross-party group of six councillors (three from each council) have been meeting weekly to develop the agreement and finalise the document. It will now be put to Waverley councillors to debate at their Full Council meeting on April 26.

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. Once in place, the partnership will be one of the largest between borough councils in the country, providing local services to 275,000 residents.

The next phase of the partnership will be the appointment of the Joint Management Team, which will work for the two separate councils. This will include directors and heads of service. The Joint Management Team will then be asked to develop business cases for further collaboration.

Cllr Joss Bigmore

Leader of GBC, Joss Bigmore (R4GV, Christchurch) said: “I’m delighted that our councillors have agreed the IAA. This will allow us to work much more closely with Waverley and improve our services, as well as sharing costs and savings.

“Since the appointment of our joint chief executive, we have begun to see these benefits, in the way that we have been able to share our learnings and experiences. Together we will also have a stronger and louder voice that will help us in discussions with the government and with other partners.

“We continue to operate in extremely challenging times with both councils facing ongoing and increasing budget deficits. Despite being on track to achieve our target of £8million savings through our own internal transformation programme, we need to save a further £6millon – 10% of our spending – over the next four years.

Cllr Paul Follows

Paul Follows, leader of Waverley Borough Council, said: “It’s very easy to agree that our partnership makes financial sense for residents, but when confronting the reality of the situation, many of these types of arrangements have failed to make it over the line due to a lack of political will or trust between the partners.

I’ve been very pleased with the way cross-party councillors at both councils have been united by a desire to do the very best for our residents and worked together in such a constructive and dedicated way.

“Combining the strengths of Guildford and Waverley borough councils has the potential to deliver better value and better services, but we also need to recognise that continued cuts to our funding from the government are still a dark cloud on the horizon.

“I want to reassure our residents and businesses that our partnership with Guildford is operational and not political. Our two councils will retain separate decision-making processes and finances, and we will continue to focus entirely on the needs of our own communities.

“By working together and combining the strengths of our two officer teams, we expect to not only make efficiency savings but also improve our local services.”

Cllr David Bilbe

But not all GBC councillors were happy. Despite the stated mellowing on the subject by his Conservative group leader Paul Spooner who abstained in the vote, David Bilbe (Normandy) said: “I’m absolutely against this merger and I find myself unable to support anything which moves that cause forward.

“We’ve seen service decline. I think morale in the council is absolutely in the pits and we’ve already debated, the scandalous £10 million of contractor costs.

“I can’t support anything of this nature, which brings the two councils closer together.”

The motion to approve the governance processes required to progress the collaboration with Waverley Borough Council was carried by a large majority, only two councillors voted against and eight abstained.

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