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New super-sized council by 2024 if Stratford and Warwick merger goes ahead

Stratford and Warwick district councils could be merged into a super-sized district covering South Warwickshire by 2024.

Both councils will this month look to move forward with the political work that could start the complicated process of combining the two local authorities.

The proposal to “create a single statutory South Warwickshire Council covering all of the activities currently carried out by Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Warwick District Council by 2024” is being driven, in a large part, by the need to cut costs.

Funding from central government has been reduced and the Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the finances of councils across the country.

Stratford said it had a budget shortfall for the next financial year of £4.1m, forcing it to look at cutting costs, using reserves and raising money from increasing fees for parking and green bins.

A merger would allow the councils to reduce staff levels and cut councillor numbers, with further savings available by sharing buildings, contracts and a host of other services and facilities.

A report by consultants Deloitte, commissioned by the councils, concludes that “there is a strong strategic, economic, financial and operational case for the merging of the two councils”.

Cllr Tony Jefferson, leader of Stratford District Council says: “The Covid pandemic has had an enormous impact on our communities and the council.

“The Deloitte report clearly identifies that there are significant benefits from our two authorities continuing to integrate; without this there would be even more very challenging decisions required from both authorities.

“Without doubt, this is one of the most significant issues in the history of the district council.”

The Deloitte report will be presented to Stratford District Council’s cabinet on Tuesday, 9th February.

If cabinet members support the idea of a merger, it would then to full council on Monday, 22nd February and allow £100,000 to be budgeted to support the merger.

Warwick’s executive councillors will discuss the report on 11th February before going to full council on 24th February with the same recommendations – to receive or to reject the Deloitte report and to support the principle of pursuing further integration between the councils.

Cllr Andrew Day, leader of Warwick District Council said: “Out of crisis often comes opportunity. Our two councils have much in common and working together we've been able to respond positively to the pandemic.

“The local recovery plan will be strengthened if councillors decide to take this historic step, giving an opportunity to improve local government services across South Warwickshire, generating greater value for our residents and taxpayers.”

The councils say the reasons for the proposed merger include:

• Recognised that the sense of place between the two authorities needs to be maintained

• Louder voice sub-regionally for residents and stakeholders

• Financial pressures from Covid and reductions in government support

• To help retain as many valuable services as possible

Two management roles are also shared by the councils while work has started on a joint local plan and a joint refuse and recycling contract.

For more details – and reaction – see this week’s Herald.

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