Town won’t get crumbs, says Mayor

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HARTLEPOOL Mayor Stuart Drummond has issued a reassurance that the town will not get a poor deal out of partnership-working with neighbouring councils.

Mayor Drummond spoke during a Hartlepool Borough Council scrutiny co-ordinating committee meeting, in which he gave an update on the progress of working with Darlington Borough Council on detailed business plans that could see the local authorities joining some services to save millions of pounds.

It is thought that potential savings could be somewhere between £5m and £8m, but any real savings would not be made until 2013-14.

The meeting heard that Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council has also been brought in on the plans and leaders from all three councils have held meetings.

Nicola Bailey, the council’s acting chief executive, said the authorities had been working together “to see what opportunities there are across the council to collaborate to sustain and support and maintain quality frontline services”.

She said these could include child and adult services, culture leisure and tourism, Play Space strategies, regeneration, neighbourhood and corporate services.

Mayor Drummond said: “It has started off very well. “The three of us have gone in with an open mind – we are all pretty much thinking along the same lines.

“We have been talking about areas where bigger savings will come.

“In a couple of months we will start seeing a range of options and the path we need to start going down.”

He said he suspected other neighbouring authorities “may want to come in on the back of it”.

Central area resident representative Evelyn Leck asked if any savings would be “divvied up” between each council.

Mayor Drummond replied that for every service area, there would be a different solution, and the council’s chief finance officer will be looking at how that will work.

Ms Leck added: “We usually get the crumbs and don’t get a slice of the cake.”

The Mayor said: “We are all relatively same-sized local authorities and have got relatively the same budget issues.

“We are all pretty much equal partners. Nobody is trying to get one over on the other one.”

He added that there will not be any differences to services, just the way they are delivered.

It was agreed that any developments and contracts are subject to scrutiny and that in some cases it may be appropriate for joint scrutiny from the participating councils on certain areas.