Camden and Islington councillors deny that a personality clash scuppered merger deal
PUBLISHED: 12:59 08 December 2010 | UPDATED: 13:35 08 December 2010
TOP councillors have denied that a personality clash was the reason why a cost-cutting plan that would have seen Camden and Islington councils share a single chief executive has been dropped.
The Labour-run councils each need to make cuts of around £100million between 2011 and 2015 – and sharing a single chief executive and senior management team could have saved up to £1million a year.
But now – as the full details of the swingeing cuts they will have to make are revealed – it has emerged that the plan has been shelved.
And there are claims that one of the reasons was a personality clash between the leader of Islington Council, Councillor Catherine West, and the chief executive of Camden Council, Moira Gibb.
Ms Gibb had been poised to take on the top job of joint chief executive once Islington’s chief executive, John Foster, retires next year.
There are also claims that the two Labour administrations were failing to see eye-to-eye over politics – with the Labour councillors heading up Islington said to be more left-wing than those at Camden.
The claims have been vociferously denounced by both leaderships.
They claim that the plan would simply have cost too much in redundancy payouts in the first year – the year both councils will be hardest hit by the Government cuts – and would not have delivered savings until three or four years down the line.
Councillor West said: “Personalities don’t come into it. This has always been an issue of finance.
“If you compare our two manifestos, you will see that we have the same ideas over a number of areas. I can’t see a lot of policy differences between us. In the end, it’s about the price tag.”
Councillor Theo Blackwell, deputy leader of Camden Council, added: “We would have had to have paid out a lot of money in redundancy payments – and that would have come early on. We didn’t know that the Government would hit us with most of the cuts in the first year when we first floated the idea.
“There isn’t a difference in the Labour politics on each council. Both parties have people who are moderates and people who are on the left.”
The opposition Liberal Democrats on Islington Council have criticised the two Labour administrations for allowing the plan to fall through – saying that more money will now have to come out of frontline services.
Councillor Terry Stacy, leader of the Lib-Dem opposition, said: “It is a huge shame that a personality clash between the two boroughs’ leaders means that this idea has been abandoned. It is a huge missed opportunity. They have allowed their personal differences between Labour in Camden and Labour in Islington to get in the way. As a result of them cutting senior staff, we will have to cut more people at the frontline.”
The Labour councils insist that they will still be able to save up to £8million between 2011 and 2014 by sharing services between Islington and Camden.
They have already decided to merge the two boroughs’ school dinner services and from April, a single company will provide school meals in both Islington and Camden. The five-year contract will save around £1.2million a year - £270,000 in Camden and £900,000 in Islington.
Councillor West said: “We are still going to do as many shared services as we can.”