The dream of an independent Twickenham took another blow this week when Richmond and Wandsworth Councils announced plans to create a ‘shared staffing arrangement’ across the two boroughs. The expectation is that the new model will deliver savings of £10m per annum in the two local authorities once it goes live in March 2017.
Fans of El Brute can take some reassurance that the each council will retain its separate status with its own elected officials. So, if you were expecting some kind of super-authority with fewer councillors you’ll be disappointed. Ah well, another time maybe. The arrangement will initially deliver savings in management costs but cost reductions in service commissioning and provision are expected to follow.
At the top of the tree the two councils will be managed by a single Chief Executive and single Deputy Chief Exec. These are expected to be Paul Martin, currently Chief Executive at Wandsworth (Richmond’s Gillian Norton will retire in 2016) with Mark Maidment as his Deputy (currently El Brute’s Director of Finance and Corporate Services). Well, at least the head honcho issue has been resolved nice and early.
And as for Kingston Council with which Richmond had been flirting for some time in search of new ways to jointly commission and provide services, El Brute Leader Lord True, aka the Blue Baron, said, “We could not agree on a single, joint management approach which could work effectively for both authorities”. Bam! So, it looks like a case of, “Sod you, you can have the bloody Gloriana and be done with it”.
With councils across the country needing to make big savings, it makes sense for them to look for new ways to cut costs. What this means for the residents and businesses of Richmond, Wandsworth and, of course, Twickenham who use their services remains to be seen. Indeed, what this means for those currently employed by the two councils remains to be seen too. The intention is that each council will retain its own identity and be able to focus on its own priorities. How this new model actually works in practice with a shared infrastructure supporting two boroughs is likely to be the biggest challenge of the new approach. What does it all mean? Will it succeed? Only you know the answers to those questions… and our dear leaders, of course.
* Richmond Council Press Release