Braintree District Council leader calls for authorities in Essex to merge to save cash

THE leader of a district council says local authorities in Essex must merge in order to cope with future budget cuts coming from central government.

Conservative councillor on Braintree District Council, Graham Butland, said he would like to see the current structure of 12 district councils, two unitary councils and the county council in Essex replaced by just two councils – one serving the north of the county and one dealing with the south.

His comments came after it was revealed Braintree council will have to find a further £1.5million in savings to balance its books over the next two years.

In an open letter sent to all council staff last week, chief executive Nicola Beach called for new ideas to meet the budget challenge.

Cllr Butland said: “We were expecting a 10 per cent cut in our grant from government and now we find it is closer to 15pc. We can incorporate these because we have run the council well in recent times but not all councils are in such a position.

“Councils are being asked to find savings year after year – where will it all end?

“At Braintree we have reduced our workforce by 560 people to a current level of 400 staff in the past 10 years and there’s not much meat left on the bone to cut.”

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Cllr Butland said he wanted to generate a debate about how public services are to be delivered in the future.

He added: “In our region we have an elderly population who may have nice houses but they have low fixed incomes, so we have to avoid putting council tax up.

“Essentially, the kind of services people want from their council are regular waste collections, good schools and reliable social and health services, and they don’t really care which council delivers them.

“Moving to two councils would cost a lot initially but after that there would be huge savings in terms of less council staff and property.”