THURROCK Council is looking seriously at a national first, an innovative way of saving millions of pounds without harming services to local people.
Council leader, Cllr John Kent, speaking at Wednesday (26 September) evening’s meeting of the full council, explained that closer links between Thurrock and the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham were being investigated.
But he emphasised that this does not “mean Thurrock becoming a London borough by the back door”.
He said: “Thurrock remains unique – it’s not like the rest of Essex and it’s not like outer London either. Two-thirds green belt also means one-third urban, we have a rural and an industrial heritage, histories and experiences which inform who and what we are as well as who and what we will become.”
Cllr Kent added: “We have been sharing our legal services with Barking and Dagenham for some time now. We started by sharing the head of legal post and then expanding to include the whole service. This has brought some interesting and beneficial results for both councils.
“Not only do we both save money, but Thurrock has some legal expertise that Barking and Dagenham needs and B & D some that we need.
“No longer do we have to pay exorbitant expert fees, the experts already work for us! It’s quicker and cheaper.”
He described the London borough’s request to share Thurrock’s chief executive as “a compliment” but added that all councils were seeing their funding reduced and having to make major savings of millions of pounds.
“I have said many times that savings should not be in the front line, they should not hit the areas where we interact with local people and provide the services they need. I have not changed my mind,” he said.
“I do not want to see any redundancies at all, but especially not among the people who actually provide those services, the people who meet with the vulnerable, the young and the old, the people who keep our communities together.
“That is why I have agreed that we should look at a closer integration of some of our services with Barking and Dagenham. I have agreed that we should investigate the possibilities of a shared directors’ board and also the possibilities that could come from shared posts one step further down the hierarchy at head of service level.”
And he concluded: “This is Thurrock leading the way among local authorities. No-one has considered integration on this scale before, no-one has looked at sharing services between a unitary authority and a metropolitan borough.
“Initial estimates put potential savings in the multi-million pound range and if it means we can maintain or even improve our services to Thurrock people at the same time it has to be a good thing.”