Agenda item

Integrated Shared Management Structure and Joint Working Arrangements Review – Preferred Option for Breckland and South Holland District Councils.

Report of Nathan Elvery, Head of Paid Service and Strategic Advisor.


The Head of Paid Service introduced the report and reminded Members that in October 2020, both Councils had commissioned a strategic review of the integrated shared management and joint working relationship between South Holland and Breckland District Councils and the report had set out recommendations from the first stage of that review.


There would be three stages to the strategic review, with the first providing both Councils a signal of direction going forward through the preferred option.  The second phase would see a separate set of decisions that would include a business case based on the preferred option.  The third stage would be to implement of the preferred option.


Members were informed that since the publication of the report, a fourth recommendation had been circulated to Members as the report had continued to develop and adapt.  The recommendations of the report had been unanimously agreed at the Cabinet meeting of South Holland on the 26 January.


Following a set of criteria as detailed within the report, the preferred option for both Councils was to form a Local Strategic Partnership within the Council’s own County.


The Chairman added that since the pandemic both Councils’ had operated within a place-based model which he felt was the right thing to do to respond to the emergency position.  It had formed the catalyst for both Councils to consider what the best option would be going forward for the residents and businesses of Breckland.  The partnership had, for over a decade been working well, and he reminded Members that we were the first in the Country to set up a Strategic Partnership expanding across two counties.  Both Leaders had a mutual respect and trust for each Authority with a moral obligation to ensure that no single Authority would be left without being able to provide the ongoing services. 


Councillor Sherwood thanked the Head of Paid Service for the detailed report.  He went on to say that the partnership had worked, where many had failed, and that had been down to the trust of both Leaders, Officers and Members across the organisations.  In addition, as a result of the partnership Breckland had been able to redirect the savings made to support the frontline services.


Councillor Hewett also added that it had provided an opportunity to allow the Council to adapt to the future needs of the residents and Businesses across Breckland.


Councillor Webb asked what the savings had been of the Partnership and if there would be an additional cost of the interim place-based structure.  The Head of Paid Service reminded Members of the report in 2015 that saw savings across the Partnership of £4.4m with ongoing savings of £500k per year.  Further savings could be made as new partnerships were created within Norfolk.  He confirmed there would be no additional costs to the interim Structure, however the safe landing of Officers was still to be finalised. In addition, there had been an assumption that moving forward there would not be a Chief Executive appointed at this time.


Councillor Cowen added that an opportunity had been created due to a changed landscape to all the Council to operate differently.  Breckland Council would be able to bring a significant knowledge base to share with a new partnership, and felt it would be an opportunity to form something better and stronger for residents across Norfolk.


Councillor Bambridge said it had been a unique relationship that had led many other Authorities to follow in a similar path.  The arrangement had been extremely successful, and we would leave the partnership as good friends with South Holland District Council.


Councillor Claussen added that the partnership had succeeded due to having the right leaders in the right place and the right time.  He felt that Breckland were equally fortunate at this time to be in a good place and had an opportunity to make a huge step in the Council’s history.


Councillor Birt asked where the methodology for the assessment had derived from and felt the data and evidence to support the assessment had been omitted from the report.  He felt that there was a substantial difference in the scoring scheme, and he wanted to know, based on the reporting, why the Council would be in a poor position under the ‘as is’ option.   In addition, there had been no mention of who the new Local Strategic Partnership might be and was not clear on how that information could be scored.  He also asked the Chairman if the Unitary proposal for Norfolk was under consideration as part of the new strategic partnership.


The Head of Paid Service said the methodology had been conducted using a combination of ambitions which had been set out within the organisations corporate plans; principles set during the review of the partnership in 2010 and again in 2015; and thirdly, issues that allowed the organisations to adapt to their environment such as the pandemic and response to the Local Government re-organisation. 


The Chairman added that he was confident in the activity both Cabinets of both Councils had undertaken and felt the Organisations were in a strong position with the proposal to move forward as a Council.  He went on to explain that prior the pandemic, everything had worked well with the shared arrangement and a 60/40 split albeit that Officers worked harder to make effective what was required in both localities.  Throughout the pandemic, the place-based team had worked with local organisations at pace to deal with the National issues.  He informed Members that the Local Government re-organisation was on hold, however, that did not stop those involved within Local Government to work collectively to provide efficiency savings across Norfolk. 


Councillor Birt went on to request if additional information of evidence and data was available for it to be included when the report was published for the Overview and Scrutiny Agenda.


Councillor Wickerson asked if the scoring of the new Local Strategic Partnership had been influenced by any particular partnership within Norfolk.   Members were informed that it had been scored objectively without being targeted to a specific partnership.


Councillor Morton welcomed the opportunity to consider the relationship with South Holland and in particular felt it would significantly reduce the amount of commuting that Officers would do. He asked how the effectiveness and efficiency had been judged and rated within the Appendices to the report.  The Head of Paid Service explained that the ‘As Is’ option had been evaluated on what had already been achieved.  To continue with the partnership would result in achieving more effective and efficient ways that would require large changes to the existing operating model.  However, by moving to a new Shared Local Partnership it would provide opportunity to set a new baseline to build on those partnerships.


RESOLVED to Recommend to FULL COUNCIL to:


1)    approve the preferred option for the future of the integrated shared management structure and joint working arrangements between the two Councils as set out in paragraph 1.8 of the report;


2)    activate clause 8 of the memorandum of agreement between Breckland District Council and South Holland District Council and authorise any extension or shortening of the timeframe set out in clause 8.6A by mutual agreement between the two parties, so far as may be considered appropriate by the Leaders, following consultation with their respective Cabinets; and


3)    approve for consultation the interim structures to support and enable the achievement of the preferred option for both Councils.


4)    subject to there being no material changes to the senior management structure following consultation with officers, delegated authority be given to the Head of Paid Service in consultation with the leader to implement the said structure.


Supporting documents: