Malvern Hills senior councillors clash over merits of shared chief executive scheme

Malvern Gazette: Cllr David Hughes. Cllr David Hughes.

PLANS for Malvern Hills District Council to share its chief executive with neighbouring Wychavon will result in Malvern becoming a "satellite hub" of the other council, says a leading councillor.

Last week, MHDC members voted by the narrowest possible margin to approve the job-share process.

But this week Cllr Julian Roskams, leader of the independent group, says the move will marginalise residents of Malvern Hills and may even lead to the end of separate councils.

He said: "We're concerned that we were not offered any options to choose from. We specifically requested Cllr David Hughes [leader of the council's ruling Tory group] with various options and the costs and benefits of each, but he didn't."

"The money saving of this is £60,000 annually, but that's a relatively small amount and could be found elsewhere."

Cllr Roskams says the move is likely to lead to the merger of management teams, job losses and a loss of representation for Malvern Hills residents.

He said: "Malvern will become a satellite hub of Wychavon, there will be job losses and Malvern people will lose their control."

One example he gave is rubbish collection. "We have a weekly refuse collection, Wychavon is fortnightly. There will be pressure to get the two systems aligned, whatever Malvern Hills residents think of it.

"And I think in the long term it will result in the merger of the two councils, as the government favours unitary authorities."

But Cllr Hughes said such comments are "scaremongering" and he is confident the move will be good for Malvern Hills residents.

He said: "The experiences of other councils who have gone down this route before us, and there are quite a few, are that it works very well. We hear that even from those councils who were initially sceptical about the move.

"One thing that both I and Cllr Paul Middlebrough, the leader of Wychavon, are adamant about is that the sovereignty of the two councils will remain sacrosanct.

"Services have changed, delivery methods have changed, and it's right that the chief executive role should change to reflect that.

"But it's just scaremongering to suggest that the weekly rubbish collections is under threat. The wheelie bin scheme which safeguards the weekly collection has proved popular since it's been introduced."

He said that sharing services is by no means unknown territory for MHDC, with building control, regulatory services, IT, and revenues and benefits among those which are already shared.

"The people of Malvern will be the ones who benefit from the merger of the two chief executive posts," he said.

At last week's Malvern Hills meeting, the vote was tied, with chairman Cllr Mike Morgan casting the deciding vote.

On the same evening, Wychavon District Council also approved the move.

At MHDC, Chris Bocock holds the chief executive role and is paid between £100,000 and £104,999. Wychavon’s chief executive, Jack Hegarty, is paid between £101,611 to £107,004.

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