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East Kent super council merger could see the loss of 150 jobs

26/01/17

Plans to create a new East Kent super council could led to 150 job losses, but could see savings of £6.8m in the first two years

Job losses are expected if plans to create an East Kent super council go ahead. The proposal would see Dover, Thanet, Shepway, and Canterbury district councils merge into a new super authority, which would save money, but see 150 jobs scrapped from the payroll. The councils said the merger could see up to £6.8m saved in the first two years after the change.

Speaking to Kent Live, Thanet District Council leader Councillor Chris Wells said: “We have had 40 per cent cuts from central government since 2008.

“By 2025 we project that the funding gap for the councils will be £60 million. With the merger we estimate we can make an additional £41 million of savings.”

Greater efficiency

Creating a super council would enable the group to attract more government funding, become more efficient and reduce the amount of management needed. It would also give greater power when it comes to negotiating contracts. Wells said the merger would not lead to a deterioration of services.

“The best kind of council is the kind you don’t notice is there – the streets are swept, the bins emptied and so on,” he said.

“By working together we can bring forward each council’s best practice across the board.”

The four councils collectively have around 1,850 staff on their books. The creation of a new super council would see eight per cent stripped back, losing around 150 members of staff. However, Wells said these would most likely be “chiefs rather than Indians”. It is also expected the number of councillors will fall from 170 to potentially as few as 72.

“The people who collect the rubbish and offer front line services will still obviously be needed,” said Wells.

“Under the modelling we intend to lose about eight per cent of staff. Four percent of these would be the senior managers – we won’t need four senior management teams.

“Another area likely to be affected will be democratic services. There will be fewer councillors and meetings so there will be less of that side of things to do.”

Four authorities will form the super council

Ashford Borough Council, which was involved in the original plans to develop a business case for the super council in July 2016, has announced it will no longer be involved in the process.

The four way business case, rather than five, will now be considered before a decision is taken by each council on 22 March. If a new super council is approved the Secretary of State will have the final say on whether it can go ahead. If approval is granted the new council would come into effect from April 2019, with elections expected in May 2019.

7 Responses to “East Kent super council merger could see the loss of 150 jobs”

  1. Chris Brown says:

    Thanet District Council leader Councillor Chris Wells says “The best kind of council is the kind you don’t notice – the streets are swept, the bins emptied and so on.” Fair enough (I currently live in Thanet and have no complaints about the council services I experience).

    Fair enough and I see the financial advantages of the proposed merger. But my big concern is about citizen representation. Cutting the number of councillors from 170 to 72 will of course save a lot on expenses and administration. It also means much bigger council wards and in turn less accountability to electors. And the possibility of a ‘super cabinet’ that railroads through cost-saving policies wherever it can. These are concerns that need to be carefully addressed.

  2. Alan Hale says:

    As a district councillor in another part of the country, Chris Brown is right about representation however what he has not said is the pressure and workload on those councillors who have the wards doubled at least in size.

    Reduced duplication of posts will no doubt save money but it will also put greater pressure on council officers who find they are doing the work of two or three people.

    I also do not accept the often spouted assertion that this will not affect front line services. Watch this space.

  3. Mike Eddy says:

    As Leader of the Opposition on Dover District, one of the councils involved, I have to say that the whole thing seems to be based on a desperate need to save money somehow following cuts from central government. There is no fundamental drive to improve services. It will be interesting to see if Thanet Council stays the course.

  4. John Smith says:

    The comment about workload on staff remaining is all so true, you cannot reduce the resources and expect the same level of service.
    When these Councils linked up before, there were promises of huge savings mainly from ‘increased buying power’. It never happened. The savings they made were on the back of staff salary cuts – a race to the bottom for T&Cs. Ask yourself if the cream of the crop will stay to do more work for less money.
    With regards greater buying power and the presumption of lower contractor costs – its not real, there is a minimum price you have to pay for any given work unless you are going to compromise on quality, or just not check!
    Look forward to Council offices closing and being centralised somewhere less convenient to residents and staff.
    Good luck to the four Councils, lets see what morale amongst staff looks like 6 months into a new arrangement.
    By the way, its central Govts fault for Councils being this desperate to save money – poor decisions on funding and LA finance have left them with little choice.

  5. anon says:

    In simple terms negotiating contracts has a high risk of destabilising the marketplace; providers who often have charitable aims will no longer be able to function. Local support services reduce and social care cost spiral. A 4% senior management reduction equals 4% officer reductions and as there should be a higher proportion of officers then how can it be mostly ‘chiefs rather than indians’ affected? senior management is already distant so covering a much wider area can only add to this.

  6. James Sanders says:

    I’ve worked in London Boroughs where this has all been done before. What they never tell you is how much is paid out to advisers, consultants, and lawyers to make it all happen, and how much is dished out to pay off highly paid Chief Executives, Directors and Managers, most of whom – surprise, surprise – are just hitting their early retirement age. It may be some time before any savings really kick in.

  7. Cllr. Ernest Mallett says:

    So you knock out 98 councillors which is 56% – how can 98 councillors represent the population which is what 170 previously did. When you interpret…’Fewer councillors so less democratic services and less meetings as there will be less to do’…you can easily see that the system proposed is going autocratic and non representative of the public…Nice one…Chinese system here we come!

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