Plan by H&F Council to Become Part of "Super-Council"

Plan to merge services  could mean "significant" job losses

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Hammersmith and Fulham have announced radical proposals to join what is being dubbed London's first Super-Council.

The council says it will look into sharing "every major service" with two other Conservative led councils, Westminster City Council and Kensington & Chelsea.

The proposal however is already under fire from critics who fear services will suffer and hundreds of jobs will be at risk.

H&F and Westminster City Council have already started to look at merging education services. Working groups are being set up to look at merging the entire range of children’s services across the three councils, along with environmental services, adult social care and corporate services.

The recommendations from the working groups will be reported in February 2011. At that stage councillors will consider the next steps in consultation with staff and partners.

Local government funding has been reduced by 28% in the Government's Spending Review, and the three councils claim that teaming up to merge services could save up to £100 million a year.

In a joint statement, H& F Council leader Stephen Greenhalgh, along with Westminster Leader Cllr Colin Barrow and K&C Leader Cllr Merrick Cockell said: “We want to stress though that local priorities will still be driven by local people, and the democratic mandate rested in elected councillors such as ourselves, will be retained.

"Our plans may be the first of their kind, but sharing of services in this way can no longer be viewed as a radical concept. It will soon become the norm for local authorities looking for innovative ways to keep costs down while delivering high quality front line services."

Interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Stephen Greehalgh said: " There's a lot of bureaucracy involved with delivering local services. You often find that of the £3 we spend, £1 is spent deciding what to do with the other two.

"This is about minimising that overhead, and we still have political sovereignty, still have the ability to choose how we spend the money locally."

However, he admitted there would be "significant reductions" in staff and that the spending cuts meant jobs could not be safeguarded.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles backed the plan, saying: " These councils are leading the way in local government and voters will expect others to get on board and follow suit."

But the Unite union warned councils against rushing into "untested structures" despite the pressure from cuts.  Its national officer for local government, Peter Allenson, said: "Councils have to be close to the needs of their communities and the people who elect them and pay for them - and council workers need to know who is in charge.

"Super-sizing the delivery of services like this means local councillors become insignificant and have little influence on the services they provide."

 

October 22, 2010