UPDATE: Council workers believe Shared Services Partnership has led to 'takeover', report finds (From Dorset Echo)
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UPDATE: Council workers believe Shared Services Partnership has led to 'takeover', report finds
COUNCIL workers believe the Shared Services Partnership has led to a 'takeover' of Weymouth and Portland by West Dorset, a report has found.
A team from the Local Government Association was invited to undertake an external review of the partnership.
Compiling the report, peer challenge manager Andrew Winfield stated: “Not surprisingly, with the upheaval over the last three years, staff morale is fragile.
“On top of this a number of staff and members have the perception that Weymouth and Portland is being taken over.”
Senior councillors have stressed that the partnership has brought equal benefits to both councils.
But the report suggested more than £15million could be raised for 'joint venture proposals' by the selloff of assets belonging to Weymouth and Portland, including 66 seafront hotels, the harbour area and North Quay offices.
Mr Winfield stated in the report that the 'exemplar' schemes could provide lessons to be applied across the partnership area, particularly in Weymouth.
The report has praised certain aspects of the Shared Services Partnership, which began with a combined revenues and benefits service in 2006.
The arrangement has saved the councils £2.1million as of March 2013.
The review noted that the partnership was founded on the principle that the sovereignty of each council was to be maintained.
Weymouth and Portland Borough Councillor Mike Goodman, who sits on the Shared Services Joint Advisory Committee, said the perception of a takeover is 'a hearts and minds issue'.
He said: “If your line manager changes to someone who comes from another authority, you may think you are being taken over.
“If you are used to working at North Quay and find yourself being sent up to Dorchester you are going to be quite rightly frustrated but we do try to make our staff feel as valued as possible.”
Coun Goodman added: “We have an enormous tourism and events team here at the borough council that is paid for out of the shared partnership.
“By the same token we have an expanded economic development team that neither of us would be able to afford alone.”
David Clarke, Chief Executive of West Dorset District Council and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council said: “The councils invited this review which has proven to be a really useful process and just at the right time as we refresh our economic growth and partnership plans.
“We welcome the findings and are keen to embed the recommendations from the peer group into our ongoing work.”
Councils also facing funding gap of millions of pounds by 2020
The report's other findings include:
· Improvements to travel infrastructure, including rail enhancements, are 'not realistically expected'.
· The estimated number of affordable homes needed per year is 730 in West Dorset and 800 in Weymouth and Portland. The number being provided is between 50 and 60 for each council.
· Decision making structures could be made 'more streamlined and effective' by the use of joint scrutiny and joint audit committees.
· Both councils have made the economy a priority but by the financial year 2019/2020 West Dorset District Council will face a funding gap of £4.02million and Weymouth and Portland Borough will face a gap of £3.2million.
· Weymouth and Portland Borough Council had a budget gap of £318,000 for the financial year 2013/2014 that was met from reserves.
· The borough council saved £700,000 over the same period through not operating the Pavilion.
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