Strategic partnership between Harborough and Melton councils voted down

Harborough District CouncilHarborough District Council
Harborough District Council
A case into the strategic merger found it would have saved £700,000 over the next three years

A strategic partnership between Harborough and Melton councils has been voted down.

Earlier this year Harborough District Council and Melton Borough Council voted for a case to be prepared investigating the ‘desirability, viability and feasibility’ of a partnership.

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It cost up to £50,000 to develop and said Harborough would see £700,000 in savings across the district over the next three years.

The proposed arrangement would have included the sharing of a chief executive and two deputy chief executive posts between the two authorities,

But last night councillors voted against the plans.

They included all Lib Dem councillors, five Conservatives and a Labour councillor. Among them were three former council chairs and the current leader of the scrutiny committee.

Melton Borough Council has now withdrawn the business case report which was due to be considered at it’s council meeting later today (Tuesday).

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Harborough District Council leader Cllr Phil King said: “Obviously I am very disappointed by the outcome of the vote not to proceed with a Strategic Partnership with Melton Borough Council - disappointed for our residents, communities and staff.

“All local authorities are under severe financial pressure and if the Strategic Partnership had gone ahead it would have enabled both councils to build more financial and service resilience, resulting in better outcomes for residents. By not voting to proceed the council is going to face more of a challenge and we will need to look at how we do things going forward.”

Leader of the opposition Phil Knowles said he was pleased with the outcome.

He said: “The right decision was made. It is not the right time for this and felt like it was being rushed through.

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“A lot was being queried by councillors and many of us were deeply concerned about the whole report and proposed structure. We struggled to see where the savings would be made without impacting service and the arguments were very unconvincing.

“There is a major cost factor too - over £50,000 of council money has been spent on this and hours of time before this decision was taken.”

The document which investigated the proposed partnership said working together could increase the influence and impact of both councils. It could also address shared challenges such as ageing population, areas of deprivation, inequality and isolation, lack of digital and transport connectivity in rural areas.

There could also be some shared services, resources and expertise which could result in savings, service resilience and staff retention.

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It would have seen a review into senior leadership roles, shared leadership across waste services and environmental health and assessments into parking strategies.

Melton Borough Council leader Cllr Joe Orson said: “While it is disappointing Harborough District Council have not voted in favour of a more formal Strategic Partnership arrangement at this time, the case for working more closely with them remains and we will continue to explore opportunities over the coming months”

Harborough District Council and Melton Borough Council already collaborate on several services including personal alarm system Lifeline, out of hours service and parking enforcement.

Following the plans being turned down councillors also voted for Liz Elliot, Harborough’s interim Chief Executive, to remain in post until the end of February.