Two neighbouring councils are to form a ‘strategic partnership’ in a bid to improve council services and protect residents from the full force of national cuts to funding.
The move for South Cambridgeshire (SCDC) and Huntingdonshire (HDC) district councils to work more closely together and explore opportunities for more shared services was announced last Thursday (April 10) following three consecutive years of cuts to national grant funding in the region of 25 per cent.
Over the last four years SCDC has delivered efficiencies in the region of £5 million with HDC delivering savings in the region of £7 million – but council bosses have said that a new approach must now be found to ensure residents and business continue to receive first class services.
Both councils have said that the partnership will mean they can improve the resilience of services, and if the move was not made now, dwindling national resources could mean that important services people rely on might have to cease.
Both will continue to operate as separate authorities but, as the partnership is developed, further opportunities to work together to deliver efficiencies and improve services will be developed.
The first shared service is likely to be building control, which could be delivered later this year.
The two councils have been key players in getting the A14 upgrade back on the national agenda, and by working as a strategic partnership council bosses believe they will have a stronger voice locally and nationally on common issues such as the A14 and A428.
Reports to set out the direction of the partnership will be presented to both councils in July, with more detail on plans for where working more closely together will deliver mutual benefits.
Jean Hunter, chief executive of SCDC, said: “We have worked tirelessly over the last few years to deliver millions of pounds of efficiencies.
“However, this is proving more and more challenging and we want to be able to continue to deliver first class services for our residents and businesses.
“To do that, we need to see a step change in the way we work with other councils to deliver the best results possible for local people.”
Jo Lancaster, managing director of HDC, said: “The reality for all district councils is that we are being asked to do more for less.
“To balance the books we need to take every opportunity to share services with a like-minded council where it makes sense to do so.
“This will allow us to protect the range and quality of services we provide to local residents.”
Cllr Ray Manning, leader of SCDC, said: “Our grant funding from Government continues to be cut by millions of pounds and this partnership is a step change in the way we work which will make sure we can continue to deliver first class services to our residents and businesses.
“To achieve tough savings targets over the last four years we have already delivered around £5 million of efficiencies but with all the low hanging fruit picked a new way of working to protect the local people from the brunt of the cuts must be found.
“Both areas are among the fastest growing in the country, and by working together we will have a stronger united locally and nationally on issues such as the A14 and A428.”
For all the latest news see today’s (Thursday, April 17) Echo.