Council's bid to off load services

A CASH-STRAPPED council is looking to shed responsibility for some of its public services in a desperate bid to save money. A briefing issued to Uttlesford District Council (UDC) staff last week said that the council would run out of money in five years

A CASH-STRAPPED council is looking to shed responsibility for some of its public services in a desperate bid to save money.

A briefing issued to Uttlesford District Council (UDC) staff last week said that the council would run out of money in five years' time unless "radical steps" were taken.

A potential partnership with Welwyn Hatfield District Council could see core services - such as customer services, council tax, benefits, mailroom and IT - move away from the Saffron Walden office.

Also on the cards is a partnership with Harlow District Council to provide building control and environmental health.

A UDC spokesman said: "The council has made its desire to share services well known over the last couple of years - it is a key priority in our corporate plan.

"These discussions are at various stages and there is no guarantee that all will come to fruition."

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UDC needs to cut its running cost by �1.3 million a year within five years and it is hoped that partnerships will deliver the bulk of these savings.

Money-saving initiatives that have been looked at and discounted include cuts in services, a four-day week for council staff and sale of housing stock.

The district council already operates a number of partnerships including payroll, human resources, parking and airport planning, but staff were told that now was the time to "step up a gear".

A UDC spokesman added: "Partnerships will only be entered into if there is a clear financial benefit and consistent or improved service quality."

One member of staff, who did not wished to be named, said: "There is a lot of concern about the changes that are happening. We have been told that compulsory redundancies will not be made, but if our jobs move to Welwyn then a lot of people will be put in a difficult position."

A UDC spokesman said: "The impact on staff will depend upon the specifics of the partnership. None of the discussions are at a sufficiently advanced stage to be able to give numbers or details."

A report will be presented to full council in July and a final decision will be made by councillors.

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