Save money on staffing costs or face higher tax bills and cuts in services, or worse?
From the outset – there was no way the Tory Opposition Group would back a move to appoint Waverley’s Tom Horwood to head up the collaboration between Waverley & Guildford Brough Councils as its CEO.
Even though other cash-strapped local authorities across the country, starved of income by the Government, have done, or are about to do, the same.
“Too risky – too hasty – no proper scrutiny – insufficient savings – prematurity” were among the list of grave concerns given for opposing a bid that was, according to Tory leader Cllr Steven Mulliner…
The most important strategic decision this council has ever taken in its lifetime .- One that would impact on Guildford and Waverley for many years to come.
Guildford’s Chief Executive has taken early retirement leaving Waverley’s lead officer in line for the top job.
Nine senior managers within the two councils will be made redundant – those who remain will have to carry an increased workload. Initial combined savings are believed to be in the region of £1.5m. But more could be expected through joint-working in the future. Tories claim these savings are not enough, and whilst congratulating Mr Horwood on his “challenging role”, argued the position should have been advertised externally.
Lib Dem Cllr Leader Paul Follows championed Tom Horwood for his expanded role, saying he was confident he was the right man for the job.
Tom Horwood had previously run two councils Basingstoke & Waverley as Interim CEO.
“I hope this will be an unconfrontational decision that will serve Guildford and Waverley well for many years to come.” said Cllr Follows.
Well, he could live in hopes! Because next to slam the decision was Bramley Cllr All-At-Seaborne, who predicted doom and gloom for both authorities and all who sail with them.
Soothsayer Seaborn spoke of “turmoil” in the ranks and banged on about lack of risk assessments, risk analysis and flawed scrutiny and more scrutiny. Blah, Blah Blah Bramley objected to the whole process from start to finish.
However, it took Cllr George Wilson to pee on Seaborne’s fireworks, saying – it wasn’t a decision the council wanted to take, but one it had to take due to reduced Government funding and the after-effects of the pandemic. A decision that may also stop Surrey from becoming a Unitary Authority – a move supported by the Tory-controlled county council, but not by Waverley’s Tory Group.
We are here, because we have to be. He warned.
Labour’s Nick Palmer said it would be interesting to hear what the public preferred.
“Higher council tax bills, reduced services, or working together with others to reduce staffing costs?”
Cllr Peter Clarke warned that Waverley’s financial position was going backwards and could move into a more perilous state if it did not take these steps. “We simply cannot afford to wait.”
This was underlined by Cllr Mark Merryweather, Portfolio Holder for finance, who said regardless of the pandemic, which was not a done deal, the financial pressures facing Waverley were well known to all, including Cllr Mulliner. “Things could get far worse, particularly with rising inflationary pressures,” he said.
Summing up, Cllr Follows thanked the opposition for reminding him how speedy decisions had been made and hoped it would back the savings that would be achieved during the life of the present administration. He thanked colleagues for reminding everyone – Why we are here – making this important decision tonight.