Shared role plans delayed again

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UNHAPPY councillors have once again delayed making a decision to share a senior officer with a neighbouring local authority.

Joanne Machers, head of human resources at Hartlepool Borough Council, could also be working for Darlington Borough Council by November under plans to save each local authority £50,000.

The proposal is to create a new joint assistant director role for human resources, which would see both councils share the cost and services of Ms Machers.

Mayor Stuart Drummond described the proposals as a “no-brainer”.

But some senior councillors on the cabinet committee have called for a wider review of departments instead of just one post.

Labour councillor Robbie Payne said that could save up to £250,000.

After a heated discussion, it was again agreed to defer the matter until the cabinet meets in two weeks.

There will also be a separate report about a feasibility study into sharing services with a neighbouring authority.

It will focus on Hartlepool and Darlington borough councils. But senior officers say it is only a study at this stage and that services could be shared with other councils in the region.

Coun Payne said: “We are talking about one isolated post when we should be looking at the full structure.”

He said a restructure of the council’s contact centre, HR department and chief executive’s department could save £250,000.

Coun Payne wanted to reject the job share, but Labour councillor Jonathan Brash called for the matter to be deferred to allow members more time.

Coun Brash said: “If there is the potential to save a lot more then we should look at that.”

Paul Walker, council chief executive, said the local authority is already looking at making further savings.

His department alone needs to save £500,000 next year.

He said: “This is a means of saving £50,000 and if it does not come from this then it would have to come from the staffing budget in the chief executive’s department.”

Mayor Drummond said any deal would include a “break clause” if either council was not happy with the arrangement.

He added: “Everybody is looking at innovative ways to work together and share posts.

“I would suggest that should we not then we are setting a very dangerous precedent.

“This is an easy saving to make and we can do it quickly.”

Independent councillor Cath Hill supported Coun Payne and said she didn’t think the council could afford not to have a full-time head of HR.

Labour councillor Pamela Hargreaves admitted she was “torn” but Labour councillor Ged Hall said he did not think it would be prudent to defer it any longer.

Mayor Drummond added: “There is no valid reason why we should not go ahead with this.”

The plan is for Ms Machers, Hartlepool’s chief customer and workforce services officer, to start the job share from November when Lesley Blundell, Darlington’s head of human resources, retires.

If approved, it would see Ms Machers work two and a half days a week for each council.

Her new role would oversee the management of all personnel, training, workforce planning, employment and health and safety issues.