The merger of Stratford-on-Avon and Warwick district councils into a ‘super-district’ are moving forward and this month will see both councils make significant decisions on the future shape and delivery of council services in South Warwickshire.
A report by Deloitte, which looks at the councils’ plans, “to create a single statutory South Warwickshire Council covering all of the activities currently carried out by Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Warwick District Council by 2024” has been released.
The report states that merging the two councils has the potential opportunity to generate annual net savings of £4.6m after year five of the merger and currently fits with current Government policy on local government reorganisation.
As well as this, the report details that a fusion may be better placed to deal with some of the significant strategic issues facing South Warwickshire, such as the economy, housing and climate change.
Those in support of the proposals believe that the sense of place between the two authorities needs to be maintained, as well as a louder voice sub-regionally for residents and stakeholders.
Other reasons for a merger are due to financial pressures from Covid-19 and reductions in government support and also to help retain as many valuable services as possible.
The councils currently share two management roles, Head of Neighbourhood/Community & Operational Services and Head of ICT respectively, whilst wider integration of both Management Teams is expected this year.
Work is also on-going in regards to the production of a joint local plan and a joint procurement process has started for a refuse and recycling contract between the two.
There are also many similarities that both councils share, including a shared economic geography (both have the highest GVAs in the West Midlands), a shared sense of community between the authorities, as well as strong political relationships between their respective Leaders.
Warwick District Council’s Executive meet on Thursday 11 February, where members will be discussing the future relationship between the two councils, before final recommendations go to a full council meeting on Wednesday 24 February.
The options for the Executive to consider are:
- To receive or to reject the Deloitte report ‘Creating a South Warwickshire Council’.
- To either support the principle of pursuing further integration between
Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Warwick District Council to the point of a full merger of the organisations.
If the proposal to support further integration between the local authorities is accepted, this will allow Warwick Council’s Chief Executive to develop proposals for a full merger between the councils.
Also, it will ensure that £100,000 is allocated each year between 2021-22 and 2023-24 to ensure that there is sufficient programme management to support and guide the council through the transition to a full merger.
Stratford-on-Avon District Council will be discussing the report at their Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 9 February and will go before its full council on Monday 22 February.
Commenting, Leader of Warwick District Council, Councillor Andrew Day said: “Out of crisis often comes opportunity. Our two councils have much in common and working together, we've been able to respond positively to the pandemic.
“The Local Recovery Plan will be strengthened if councillors decide to take this historic step, giving an opportunity to improve local government services across South Warwickshire, generating greater value for our residents and taxpayers.”
Councillor Tony Jefferson, Leader of Stratford-on-Avon District Council said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on our communities and the council. The Deloitte report clearly identifies that there are significant benefits from our two authorities continuing to integrate.
“Without this, there would be even more very challenging decisions required from both authorities. Without doubt, this is one of the most significant issues in the history of the district council.”