STRATFORD and Warwick District Councils are moving a step closer towards creating a single statutory South Warwickshire Council by 2024 – a super-district.
Next week, both authorities will decide on the future shape and delivery of council services in South Warwickshire.
Councillor Tony Jefferson, Leader of Stratford District Council, which covers Alcester and Studley, said: “The Covid pandemic has had an enormous impact on our communities and the Council.
“The Deloitte report (into the prospect of uniting the two authorities) clearly identifies that there are significant benefits from our two authorities continuing to integrate.
“Without doubt, this is one of the most significant issues in the history of the District Council.”
The Deloitte report will be presented to the district council’s cabinet on Tuesday, February 9, where Members will be discussing the future relationship between the two councils, before final recommendations go to full council on Monday, February 22.
The options are as follows:
1. To receive or to reject the Deloitte report ‘Creating a South Warwickshire Council’.
2. To either support the principle of pursuing further integration to the point of a full merger of the organisations.
3. Subject to option 2: For the chief executive to develop proposals for a full merger to create a South Warwickshire Council.
4 That the sum of £100,000 pa for the period 2021/22 to 2023/24 be provided to ensure there is sufficient support to guide the council through transition to a full merger.
Coun Andrew Day, Leader of Warwick District Council said: “Out of crisis often comes opportunity.
“Our two councils have much in common and working together we’ve been able to respond positively to the pandemic.
“The local Recovery Plan will be strengthened if councillors decide to take this historic step, giving an opportunity to improve local government services across South Warwickshire, generating greater value for our residents and taxpayers.”
Warwick District Council will discuss the report at their executive on Thursday, February 11 before going before full council on Wednesday, February 24. The recommendations are the same.
There are many similarities between the two councils – they share the economic geography – WDC and SDC have the highest GVAs in the West Midlands, there’s a shared sense of community between the authorities and they already share two management roles with wider integration expected during 2021.
Work has also started on the production of joint local plan and a joint procurement process has started for a joint refuse and recycling contract.
The report from Deloittes concluded:
There was a strong strategic, economic, financial and operational case for the merging of the two Councils for the following reasons:
Government policy appears to be encouraging councils to operate at greater scale, therefore creating a super-district fits with Government policy and thinking.
A super-district would have a stronger strategic voice with stakeholders, be more able more easily to enter into partnership arrangements with other organisations, benefit from increased capacity and resilience with a larger pool of resources in all functional areas, deliver improved customer experience by delivering greater consistency of approach, particularly for customers operating across both districts, and be a more effective employer by creating a structure that offers more career opportunities and greater appeal in the jobs market.
Merging the two Councils builds on a long-term strategic trend of significant collaboration between the two organisations..
A super-district may be better placed to deal with some of the significant strategic issues facing South Warwickshire including the economy, housing or climate change.
Both Councils face significant financial pressures and need to make savings; merging the councils provides the potential to improve the financial position and ensure that local government can continue to deliver or improve services.
A financial assessment has been carried out of the potential costs and benefits. This has found a potential opportunity to generate annual net savings of £4.6m after Year 5.
The super-district could speak up for the interests of the place and the discrete local communities within it, creating a stronger, unified voice than currently exists, ensuring the place’s voice is heard at a strategic level.
Merging the Councils would also create a more powerful voice for the South Warwickshire economy that can work within and influence existing partnership organisations and structures such as the WMCA and the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP. Within the WMCA, when GVA is examined, the proposed South Warwickshire economy is the second biggest, second only to Birmingham.
The super-district could improve service delivery across South Warwickshire through delivering economies of scale and making re-investments in services to drive innovation, assessing the variation in performance and cost of delivery of services across both Councils, and under a single management structure, delivering greater performance consistency by applying best practice and reducing variation.