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Councils in bid to create Vision Derbyshire partnership

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021 10:24am

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

Derbyshire councils have plans to spend half a million pounds of taxpayer money in an attempt to avoid an official merger.

Most of the major councils in Derbyshire have formed together to create Vision Derbyshire, which represents an alternative pitch to government instead of a formal merger into a “super council”.

The proposed partnership – instead of a merger – is estimated to provide between £20 million to £66 million in organisational benefits and £1.08 billion in wider system benefits.

It says a joint approach to complex challenges will “undoubtedly result in better outcomes for people and place and savings”.

However, it is an incomplete picture with Derby City Council dropping out early on and it now appears that South Derbyshire District Council has also dropped out of the partnership.

The remaining seven district councils and Derbyshire County Council are forging ahead and are seeking to pool £436,248 of taxpayer money to fund the creation of six new jobs to oversee the partnership.

Of this funding, 40 per cent would be paid for through the county council – a total of £174,499.

Meanwhile, the remaining 60 per cent will be split equally between the district councils. Depending on how many continue to sign-up to the partnership, this would cost each authority up to £52,350.

A report on the issue, to be discussed by Derbyshire Dales District Council later this week, says the partnership: “Presents a unique opportunity for the council to participate in the further development and implementation of an innovative and collaborative approach for Derbyshire and a delivery programme which will support the achievement of key council priorities which will ultimately benefit local people in the Derbyshire Dales and Derbyshire as a whole.

“The ability to pool resources on the programme is likely to deliver significant benefits across a range of activities.”

Through the nearly half a million pound of funding, there would be a new “programme team” with its own £100,000 budget with an extra £30,000 for communications and £10,000 for equipment and travel.

The programme team would include:

  • A programme manager paid a total of £60,392, including oncosts
  • Four senior project offices, each paid £42,129, including oncosts
  • A communications officer, paid £42,129, including oncosts
  • A admin support officer, paid £25,212, including oncosts

A report on the issue says councils who do not pay up can still “have a seat round the table” but will have limited voting rights.

The partnership has set key priorities, including careers, a festival of business, social mobility, homelessness, domestic abuse, climate change and independent living.

Vision Derbyshire was the preferred option taken forward by the majority of councils in the county as an alternative to a formal merger of them all.

This could involve district councils and the county and city councils being scrapped and then holding an election for a new super council to govern the whole county.

Central government has gone back to the drawing board and put on pause plans for policies on unitary councils and local government reorganisation.

This has left the Vision Derbyshire plan proceeding as normal, with no say yet if it will be deemed sufficient to meet demands from central government to reform the system of councils.

Alternative options are for Derby to widen and absorb a larger area and for districts in the rest of the county to merge in with the county council – making two large councils for Derbyshire.

Leaders and officers are split across the political divide on this issue, with leading councillors even within the same party having different views on whether this would benefit residents.

The main concern has been a loss of local interaction from a council which may be plainly out of touch with its residents, due to the sheer size of Derbyshire – stretching 62 miles from Glossop in the High Peak to Swadlincote in South Derbyshire.

Meanwhile, the pros in favour of the super authorities include the ability to save on costs and the potential for smoother operations of, for instance, bin collections and house planning policies.

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