Joint working to save district council cash

Bodicote House
Bodicote House

Cherwell District Council and its near neighbours are looking to build on £3 million already saved by increasing the amount of joint working.

CDC approved its budget at a council meeting on Monday night which will see its share of council tax frozen for the sixth consecutive year at £123.50 for a band D property.

The council has also seen its revenue support grant – funding from central government – cut by just under 30 per cent to £1.04 million.

But it has received 
£2.7 million of New Homes Bonus funding from the government, around half of which will be used to support the budget.

Speaking to the Banbury Guardian, council leader Barry Wood said CDC would not be cutting services despite the cuts in funding and had managed to do this by increasing joint working with South Northants Council and Stratford-on-Avon District Council.

He added there was no limit to how the three councils could work together and the joint working so far has saved £3 million a year.

Ken Atack, lead member for financial management at CDC, added: “To date it has been what’s called back office such as finance and HR. We have said we need to look at things like leisure services, recycling, the planning department.

“The whole gamut of things the district council does is open to joint working.”

He added one of the council services, HR, was ready for three-way joint working this year with revenue and benefits to follow for joint working between Cherwell and South Northants.

But Councillor Wood ruled out a unitary authority arrangement with Oxfordshire County Council. He said: “The way we are doing it, there is no change in local government structure.

“Cherwell District and South Northants councils will still have their own councillors and connection to their own electorate. All you do is combine your management structures. We are not going to tinker with the structure of local government, it is too destructive.”

Paul Sutton, head of finance and procurement said: “This budget is in the context of the difficult economic climate.

“The cuts from government are going to continue and we need to be aware of that and act appropriately.

“We are continuing to work with South Northants Council in terms of a shared management role but we are moving forward to develop that even further into joint services.”

Residents in Cherwell will still see an increase in their overall council tax bill after Oxfordshire County Council and the police and crime commissioner for Thames Valley agreed to increase their 
council tax rates by 1.99 per cent.

l Stratford District Council has also agreed not to increase its portion of council tax. The average band D figure remains the same at £128.05.

l South Northants Council was due to meet to set its council tax yesterday, Wednesday. A council tax freeze has been recommended.

l Last week Northamptonshire County Council approved drastic budget proposals to save £68 million in the next financial year and begin the outsourcing of public services.

The authority approved more than 60 cost saving measures last Thursday and councillors also approved the ‘Council Plan’ which will, over the next five years, see the authority outsource services to mutual companies and reducing its core workforce from 4,000 to 150.