That is the question facing every councillor, regardless of their political persuasion at a crucial Council Meeting next Tuesday 6 July?
Dream Team – Councillors Paul Follows and Joss Bigmore. working to save money, create opportunities and protect vital services in guildford and waverley?
Swingeing cuts in Government funding combined with the effects of the COVID pandemic have produced a perfect storm for councils the length and breadth of the country. This coupled with the threat of a behemoth single County Unitary Authority being imposed upon them from on high has led to a call for action.
Some residents believe change is long overdue?
Doing nothing is not an option if councils are to ‘close the gap’ in their finances and avoid falling into a black hole!
Therefore Waverley’s Executive is seeking closer ties with Guildford Borough, with whom it already collaborates. ‘YW’ now proposes, after discussions with GBC, to seek a new Joint Chief Executive and Senior Management Team to run both authorities. The present proposals assume that both councils will remain – separate democratic entities.
Early savings are predicted to be in the region of £1.4m. However, future collaboration could produce further savings on – leisure services, property and more.
When Waverley’s Value for Money Overview & Scrutiny Committee considered the proposals last night – numerous concerns were raised, including:
- Lack of detailed data, including the possible cost of making savings.
- The unseemly haste in making such an important decision.
- The Lack of a Business Plan, Risk Analysis, and more.
Most councillors recognised that the proposed method of working had been introduced and had worked successfully in other councils, and the financial pressures they faced demanded change.
Tory Leader Stephen Mulliner was concerned that Waverley was “taking the jump” without full knowledge of both councils finances.
There was some confusion around the appointment of a joint Chief Executive. Some believed it should be one of the two current incumbents – to maintain staff morale. Others argued an external appointment was a legal requirement and the post must be advertised. This will be made clear by South Eastern Employers, who are assisting both councils on the employment process.
Leader Paul Follows promised that by Friday every councillor would have as much information as possible on the subject to read over the weekend. He wanted everyone fully prepared for the full council meeting on Tuesday. It is then – that the first important step would be taken.
Responding to questions concerning “significant redundancy costs’ he cautioned against councillors creating undue worry among the staff. Monitoring Officer Robin Taylor, responding to concerns that Waverley officers and councillors did not have the necessary skills to make the change, said:
“We have the skills, and if and we need to add to them, they will be sought.”
Following the Government’s extension of the social distancing restrictions until at least 19 July, officers have been exploring alternative venues other than Waverley Towers for the Council meeting. This would then enable all Councillors to participate safely in the meeting.
Instead it will be held at : The Great Hall, Farnham Maltings, Bridge Square, Farnham, GU9 7QR at 6.00pm
The Great Hall is believed large enough to accommodate all Councillors with social distancing in place. Officers are working on securing furniture and equipment.
It will not be possible to observe this meeting on Zoom though there will be some restricted seating for members of the public and press. Officers are looking at options for recording the meeting and uploading it to the Council’s YouTube channel after the event.