Stakeholder and Business Question and Answers
Have you looked at the case for operational merger only, not political? What are the benefits of full over operational merger? What are the drawbacks?
There are a number of savings that only a full merger will deliver. In other areas such as East and West Suffolk who have gone through recent mergers (2019) there have been savings achieved through reductions in the number of Councillors, reducing the cost of managing two sets of accounts, elections and committee support activities as well as ensuring that the Council has only one set of priorities to work to. A reduced number of Councillors may possibly make Councillors more remote but steps can be taken to overcome that risk.
How will losing councillors ensure everybody's voice is represented fully? Will this mean that vulnerable people who are at risk of exclusion (e.g., due to isolated rural location or in deprived urban communities) will have less representation in council
If the merger is approved by Central Government, the Local Government Boundary Commission of England (LGBCE) would be instructed to undertake a Principal Area Boundary Review (PABR). A PABR may also give rise to the need for a consequential electoral review of the local authorities involved, depending on the scale and/or nature of the boundary change. The Commission's objectives are: * To provide electoral arrangements for English principal local authorities that are fair and deliver electoral equality for voters. * To keep the map of English local government in good repair and work with principal local authorities to help them deliver effective and convenient local government to citizens. Additionally, we would want to use a variety of communication opportunities for communities and individuals to be able to contact the Council and Councillors regardless of their location.
How will my views be taken on board? How strongly will our voices be heard within this decision process?
There will be ample opportunities to have your say during this proposed merger process including an online questionnaire, stakeholder forums and briefings. Receiving a good deal of local support is one of the key considerations that central government will be assessing when they make their decision on a formal submission.
How will the process of merger be communicated to me?
The merger process will be communicated to all interested stakeholders using a variety of communications channels including local media (print and digital), website, social media, newsletters and through Councillors
How will your voice be stronger when you are still the lower tier of a 2-tier system?
A South Warwickshire Council will be a bigger Council and so will have a louder voice on issues such as the economy, education, and highways issues.
I work with local communities - will local contact with the council via officers and councillors be lost?
No it will be possible to contact both Councils through the existing channels including telephone, email / web, face to face and online. There will also be opportunities to further enhance how to receive the service you require.
What difference will it make to the way I engage with the council?
There should be no adverse impact on the way you engage with the Council. One of the key outcomes of the proposed change is that the new Council will be better placed to transform its services for residents, businesses and communities.
What evidence have you considered of the likelihood of efficiencies of scale savings and savings via staff/councillor number reduction? Are there examples of where projected savings have been met?
Both Councils have and are speaking with other Councils that have recently undergone this type of merger. Those examples have demonstrated that the savings and efficiencies can be delivered. We are also working with the Local Government Association who are providing independent advice and guidance towards achieving the expected outcomes and benefits.
What lessons have you learnt from other authorities to ensure that this merger achieves what it sets out to achieve?
Both Councils have and are speaking with other Councils that have recently undergone this type of merger and others who are similarly contemplating the same step. We are also working with the Local Government Association who are providing independent advice and guidance towards achieving the expected outcomes and benefits.
What support can a super-district give to businesses badly affected by Brexit/Covid?
Both Councils have been actively supporting businesses during the pandemic. A super district would be better placed to enhance delivery of this further during a period of economic recovery.
What will happen if some services fail to merge successfully?
The transformation programme is planning to design and deliver a programme of service integration that minimises disruption to service delivery and are enabled to further transform to better serve residents, businesses and communities. We plan to trial a service integration so we can learn and make sure that we don't fail to merge any services.
What will happen if the merger submission fails?
Both Councils have agreed an ambition to politically merge. However, if this is rejected by central government, then the two Councils would still merge their operational activities such as sharing services, officers, buildings, technology and processes.
What will happen if you go over budget?
Steps will be taken to ensure the transformation programme does not go over budget.
Will a bigger council mean more bureaucracy and bloated management?
It will mean less of both.
Will I find it harder to contact the people I need to at the council?
No, it will be possible to contact both Councils through the existing channels including telephone, email, face to face and online. There will also be opportunities to further enhance how to receive the service you require.
Will job losses across the councils mean that processes will be slower and less efficient?
No this is neither the ambition nor intention of either Council.
Will the financial savings from efficiencies be enough considering the costs of merger?
Both Councils face significant financial challenges in the next few years and have recognised that the bigger cost is to sit back, do nothing and hope that government will not further reduce funding and that costs won't increase.
Will there be a coherent tourism plan to promote the area?
International tourism is a key contributor to the local economy and has been badly affected by the pandemic. Organisations such as Shakespeare's England are already established within the South Warwickshire area and will be best placed to actively contribute and deliver against a coherent tourism plan alongside the new Council.
Will there be better support for local businesses from a super-district authority?
One of the key outcomes of the proposed change is that the new Council will be better placed to transform its services for residents, businesses and communities.
Will there be opportunities for local businesses via procurement?
This is already the case and would be the ambition of both Councils to continue to provide opportunities for local businesses and enhance them wherever possible.
Will this mean that planning decisions are made faster?
The general ambition with all the service integrations is to maintain or enhance services to residents, businesses and communities. This will take some time and a combination of change processes to achieve. During the programme of service integration, there will be an opportunity for all services to review operational processes and procedures, capitalise on areas of strength and improve on areas of development. Using planning decisions as an example, this would require officers, software systems and decision making processes to be aligned before agreeing new performance targets for the new integrated service.
You will still be a district council, so I will still have to engage with multiple bodies (WCC for transport etc) - how does this make my job any easier?
Yes, the proposed change does not remove a tier of local government but it does provide one authority that covers all the district council responsibilities for the South Warwickshire area such as waste collection, planning and licensing.