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Labour vow to block Yarmouth’s three council merger “marriage”

PUBLISHED: 10:22 23 March 2012

Great Yarmouth town hall on South Quay

Great Yarmouth town hall on South Quay

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

TORY management merger plans will be blocked if Labour wins control of Great Yarmouth Borough Council in May, the shadow leader has vowed.

Cost-saving plans for Yarmouth to link-up with both Breckland and South Holland - in Lincolnshire - councils are out to consultation after all authorities agreed to the plans in principle.

It is hoped the merger would save Yarmouth around £140,000 each year in staff costs - by sharing a chief executive and senior management team between the three authorities.

But a final decision will not be taken until after elections.

And while Tory-controlled Breckland and South Holland district councils do not have elections this year, Yarmouth’s Conservative council is under threat from Labour.

For a third of Yarmouth’s 39 seats are up for election on May 3 and power hangs in the balance.

And all three authorities must agree to plans for them to proceed.

Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour opposition group, said: “Should we gain control at May, we just would not pursue this.

“We will stop it, but if the Conservatives retain control the management merger will go through.

“Steve Ames is one of the driving forces behind it and protest is falling on deaf ears.”

The borough council is currently formed of 22 Conservatives, 16 Labour and one independent so a shift of control is possible.

And Labour has joined unions to voice doubt over how much cash the merger would save.

Mr Wainwright says a new post called Forward Great Yarmouth is being created - to promote new enterprise - and estimates it will pay around £60,000 per year.

And he said once travel costs between Yarmouth, Dereham and Spalding is taken into account, the amount saved will be closer to £50,000 than the suggested £140,000 per year.

Jo Rust, campaign organiser for Norfolk Unison, said: “Our concern is that this proposal will adversely affect service delivery to our customers, delaying the delivery and affecting the quality.

“We are a deprived area and so have different needs to South Holland and Breckland and as such we currently provide specialised tailored services to our customers.

“Surely keeping great Yarmouth local is a better choice for us all, giving a local service at a centralised local level.”

She urged people to make their views known to the council.

But Steve Ames, borough council leader, has defended the potential savings of the move and accused Labour of snubbing the move because the other councils involved are Conservative led.

“I’m not going to argue over figures, but savings will be made,” he said. “The local authority needs to find £3 million before the financial year 2013-14 and we’ve got to start the journey, so any savings are right.

“The Conservative administration prefers to spend money on services than protecting management jobs.

“As far as I’m aware, the Labour party have no issues with shared management - the issue is who we’re sharing with. “They agree to the principle of marriage but not the choice of bride.”

He added that all post holders and union branch representatives have been notified.

A final decision on the merger is due to be taken at a public council meeting on May 24.

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