Top council staff ‘an investment’

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The leader of Horsham District Council has said senior officer management ‘should not be regarded simply as a cost’ after calls to axe the post of chief executive.

Eric Pickles the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government released a document of ‘50 ways to save’ advising councils of simple ways to save money - including axing or sharing a chief executive with neighbouring authorities.

Other ideas included cutting spending on the use of consultants, cracking down on benefit fraud, sharing back office staff, sub-letting and removing refreshments except tap water from all meetings.

However this week, leader of HDC Ray Dawe said the council is already performing many of Mr Pickles’ tips.

Mr Dawe said: “I can understand that the Secretary of State is keen that local Government plays its part in responding to the severe economic down turn and the need to cut costs. One of his suggestions is that councils examine how they run at senior management level.

“The important aspect is that members elected by the public need and get good support at all levels from paid council staff, and having the right people and the capacity at a senior managerial level is important.

“Councils are no different to other organisations in this respect. The challenges we face are increasingly complex and we operate in an ever changing legislative framework with big reductions in Government grant and increasing scrutiny.

“There is no “one size fits all” solution and having good management at senior level needs be regarded as an investment, not simply a cost. At Horsham District Council we have reduced the number of senior managers over the last four years.

“Prior to 2009, we had twelve heads of service and three directors. Over the last four years we have reduced this to seven heads of service and two directors. Over the next two years, as part of our Business Transformation programme looking at how we can deliver quality services at lower cost, we will be taking a further look at our management structure.”

There are other ways in which HDC is saving money including sharing services with Mid Sussex District Council, Crawley Borough Council, Adur District Council and Worthing Borough Council.

Mr Dawe added: “Horsham District councillors do not receive a pension and have not had their allowances increased in the past four years. Refreshments are only provided for external meetings and no travel is first class.

“The council continues to make savings at every opportunity but having been pro-active over the past few years this means there are very few easy wins left. The council has therefore developed a Business Transformation programme and aims to reduce council spending by a further £1.25m by April 2015.”