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Staff keep mouths shut because of fear for jobs
CONTROVERSIAL plans to merge council services in Worcestershire with Staffordshire and Shropshire are being hampered – because staff don’t want to lose their jobs by suggesting ideas.
Last year County Hall announced a new ‘Tri Council’ project which could see services and departments joined up to save money.
The council’s Tory leadership has now admitted the suggestions so far are “small beer” and have yet to seriously dent the £330 million annual budget. Fresh efforts are now being made to make more progress, with bosses saying it could be widened to include the likes of Gloucestershire County Council.
Worcestershire County Council’s assistant chief executive Clare Mitchell said it is “difficult” because many service managers might see their own positions under threat.
During a debate at the scrutiny board, she also insisted that the project will show progress in the months ahead. “If your put all three authorities together you are talking about a budget of £1 billion. Ours is about £330 million, and if you can’t make savings out of that you will never do it,” she said.
“As the financial climate has got increasingly tough, and we’ve seen that with the spending review, there are conflicting priorities in each local authority.
“To date it hasn’t been massively financially rewarding but it’s very light touch in terms of overheads for us, it’s probably taking up two days a week of officer time.”
Liberal Democrat Councillor Tom Wells then asked if senior staff were not coming forward with ideas because they feared for their own futures.
She said: “How do you ask service managers to drive through change, make savings and come up with Tri Council ideas, and not feel that their positions are under threat in three or four years time – it’s difficult.”
Councillor John Campion, the cabinet member responsible for transformation and commissioning, said: “The savings we are looking at so far are relatively small beer.”
So far, a database of outside contractors has been shared between all three councils so they can share details on the cheapest ones.
A unified adoption service is also being drawn up, which is likely to be approved by the cabinet later this year.
On top of that, Staffordshire County Council and County Hall are likely to team up to create a single scientific services department, which includes asbestos control, food and consumer goods testing. A decision on that is due in December.