Waverley Borough Council’s Tory opposition group has criticised the appointment of a joint £930-a-day interim finance chief with Guildford Borough Council as evidence of taxpayers again losing out in the back-office merger with its neighbouring authority.
Bankruptcy-threatened Guildford has been sharing senior staff with Waverley since 2021 as a way to save money, but the two councils have been forced to recruit interim finance chief Richard Bates after failing to find a permanent Section 151 officer.
Waverley’s Conservative opposition group claims a key factor in these recruitment struggles is the concerning financial situation gripping Guildford Borough Council.
Waverley’s executive has also agreed to share further staff with Guildford Borough Council, despite Guildford being in a recruitment freeze.
Councillor Peter Martin, leader of Waverley Conservatives, said: “This is another example of residents and businesses across Waverley losing out to Guildford because of the merger which has happened with Guildford Borough Council at the senior management level.
“This merger leaves Waverley residents lumbered with the bill for an interim chief finance officer (CFO) at great expense because we cannot hire a permanent CFO.
“It’s unacceptable that Waverley taxpayers are being used to prop up Guildford Borough Council as it balances on the edge. You’d think the leader of Waverley council would stand up for the residents and businesses who live and work here.”
Addressing criticism at an executive meeting in August, Waverley’s Lib Dem leader Paul Follows emphasised the interim appointment was not an indication of a merger with Guildford but was a “pragmatic sharing of resources for the joint benefit of both councils”.
He added Mr Bates would balance his time across both councils equally overall, but would allow for flexibility according to business need.