COUNCIL bosses at Malvern Hills District Council have confirmed they are in talks with their Wychavon counterparts about sharing sharing a chief executive.
The possible move has been touted as a cost-saving measure and concerns Chris Bocock, chief executive at Malvern and Jack Hegarty, managing director at Wychavon, who both earn individually between £100,000 and £107,004 a year.
There has been speculation for weeks that discussions were taking place, but the matter was aired publicly for the first time at Malvern’s annual council meeting last Tuesday (May 13).
Democratic councillor Anthony Warburton raised the issue during leader’s questions claiming ‘detailed consideration’ had taken place and whoever was appointed to the joint role would devote ‘about two days’ a week to Malvern business.
He called for a review of the council’s management structure before the proposal was considered further.
“This is so important it should be discussed at the earliest opportunity at a full council meeting.” he added.
And speaking after the meeting, Coun Warburton told the Observer: “An additional and very material concern is that this ‘shared’ chief executive would be provided by Wychavon, a neighbouring authority.
“We have joint arrangements with that council concerning a number of services, most importantly in respect of the contentious SWDP.
“The two councils are presently both controlled by Conservative groups.
“In less than a year they may have differing political direction, the potential for conflict of interest is enormous”.
In response, Malvern leader Coun David Hughes said: “The two council leaders and the two current chief executives are exploring options at this stage which will result in proposals to be put forward to all councillors to vote on.
“The primary drivers are efficiency, cost savings and resilience.
“Once the detailed proposals are drawn up, all councillors will be involved with the decision making process, which we want to be as open and transparent as possible.
“I hope that all members will give this proposal fair consideration when it comes forward, keep an open mind and avoid trying to second guess information prematurely.”
Both councils have targets for further cost savings in the coming years, as part of wider reductions in public spending.
Wychavon District Council leader Coun Paul Middlebrough confirmed ‘informal’ discussions had begun between the two authorities.
“We have a long history of working together and sharing a significant number of services already, so these discussions feel like a logical step in the right direction,” he added.
Whilst there are no specific details available at this early stage, a guarantee that each council will keep its independent identity has been confirmed.