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Warning over tight timescale for Stratford-Warwick council merger

A TIMESCALE for merger plans between Stratford and Warwick district councils could be just too tight to manage, according to a councillor whose ward borders both areas.

Key decisions and public consultations on the proposed merger will need to be completed by the end of 2021, Stratford’s chief executive David Buckland has revealed.

But his announcement of the deadline to a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee last week was met with concern from Cllr Andy Crump.

The Tory councillor for Southam South told the meeting: “I have some concerns as to whether we have the capacity to manage this.”

Mr Buckland said the timescale for presenting plans to the government for the merger meant decisions would need to be made in the next six months.

He added: “The vision that was adopted by council was to merge the two authorities by April 2024. Working back from that, the view from the officials when we met with them last week was that the council would need to make a submission by Christmas this year to meet that particular timescale.

“The council meeting in December would be the reckoning point, the ‘go/no go’ date for taking that merger forward.”

But Cllr Crump expressed concern at the amount of work that needed doing: “Obviously we have been through a heck of a lot in the past 12 or 18 months with regards to workload.

“I have some concerns as to whether we have the capacity to manage this as well as our other projects, particularly in this shortened timescale.”

Mr Buckland replied: “Resources of £100,000 per year per council were made available for the programme. Whether that is sufficient in time we will have to review.

“The idea of working together was to achieve the bigger prize of recurring savings of circa £1.5m per local authority to ensure that, as we move forward, we are still financially viable. So it is whether we can afford not to do it.”

The chief executive also explained the process Whitehall would go through when looking at the merger plans.

He said: “In the conversation we had with the government last week, it is clear that there’s three criteria that any proposition for a merger would need to satisfy.

“The first is evidence that the merger would improve local government in the place.

“The second is that there is evidence that the proposal commands a good deal of local support – that is public support, but also other public sector bodies within the locality, so town and parish councils, the county council, police and crime commissioner and the heath authority would all be consulted to determine their preference.

“The third criteria is that the area, in view of the secretary of state, is a credible geography which consists of two or more local authority areas which are adjacent and in a county council boundary.”

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