Waverley Borough Council’s decision-making executive committee has approved plans to “work more closely” in partnership with neighbouring Guildford Borough Council.
The council’s Collaboration and Transformation programme aims to support both councils by making financial savings and helping to sustain and improve council services.
Waverley’s Lib Dem-led administration says it will enable each authority to continue to invest in key projects that benefit the local community, such as the coordination and planning of carbon reduction initiatives across a wider area, saying this is “a significant step towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030”.
But the borough’s Conservative opposition group have called for an end to the “deeply flawed” merger arrangements, which have seen an exodus of senior staff since the programme was launched in 2021.
A meeting of the Guildford Borough Council executive also took place on November 23, where they approved identical plans to move forward with the collaboration.
Guildford and Waverley Borough Councils already share a joint management team, a partnership that saves almost £900,000 per year when compared with the cost of having two separate management teams.
The agreement between the two councils means they will now plan more ways to work together, including:
- Looking at shared workforce options
- Looking at the feasibility of a joint headquarters
- Commitment to necessary financial investment
- Simultaneous executive meetings to progress the programme and work together.
Councillor Paul Follows, Waverley leader, said: “Councils across the UK are under increasing financial pressure due to continued cuts to their funding from the Government over the last 13 years.
“Waverley is in a better position than most – we are not yet having to consider making cuts to services – but we are coming to the limit of the efficiency savings we can achieve on our own.
“If we continue along this path, it is clear we would be faced with the prospect of having to reduce services for our communities. Doing nothing is simply not an option.
“We have chosen to be proactive by working collaboratively with our partners at Guildford Borough Council. By combining our strengths and resources, we can avoid duplication of work, save officer time, and lower our overheads to protect and even help to improve our services.”
Councillor Victoria Kiehl, Waverley portfolio holder for organisational Development and Governance added: “There is huge potential within both Guildford and Waverley borough councils, and I am excited to unlock that potential by introducing innovative shared working practices that will make both organisations more efficient and financially sustainable in the long-term.
“This collaboration will enable us to protect local services, look after the best interests of our community and help us to deliver our ambitions to tackle climate change, build more affordable housing and support our local economies.”