Peterborough Lincolnshire merger plan

07:27 Thursday 18th June 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: We all know, don’t we? We constantly hear it. Local councils struggling, they’ve got shrinking budgets. Times are tight. Well could there be an alternative, a super-council? This is one suggestion from the new Leader of Peterborough City Council. A meeting was held last night between Lincolnshire and Peterborough City Council about the possibility of co-operating to make one council to rule them all .. I may be slightly paraphrasing there. John Holdich the Leader of Peterborough City Council joins me now. So John, what’s the idea here?
JOHN HOLDICH: (UNCLEAR) Since the Government came to power they’ve been talking about devolution. In fact your listeners will probably have heard quite a bit about Manchester going to take on health and all those sorts of things. The Government said if you want to be in the first tranche, come up with some ideas, expressions of interest, before the end of the month. What happened this week ..(LAUGHS) ..was that Lincolnshire who are looking at the super-council from the Lincolnshire border right up to the Humber Bridge, because that obviously is where Lincolnshire is, are looking at it. And then some bright spark said “and we’re including Peterborough.” But I can honestly tell your listeners the first time we had spoken to Lincolnshire was last night, and that was not to say would you come in with us, that was to explain their situation and where they’re at.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK. So what would be the potential benefits of this? Why are Lincolnshire keen?
JOHN HOLDICH: Well I think .. Peterbough has been doing some work on it. We have been talking to our neighbouring district councils, and indeed Cambridgeshire County Council, because there can be some benefits of scale in it. And I could give you a small example. When Peterborough became a unitary authority we looked at having our own call-out system, which fifteen years ago would have cost an extra £86,000 a year.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Sorry, what’s a call-out system John ?
JOHN HOLDICH: Well if you’ve got a problem, a social services problem or something like that, and you need somebody on a 24 hour basis, we have a number you have to ring and then somebody will put you through to our emergency number. So that system’s there, and it would have cost us if we hadn’t done it on a Cambridgeshire basis an extra £86,000. So there are economies of scale by (UNCLEAR) to others.But at this point in time I can’t see any real benefit in Peterborough going into a much larger council. But there are areas where we could co-operate on, and I think one of those is economy and skills, so that we can actually work together and get our economy even better.
DOTTY MCLEOD: I do appreciate that any plans are at a very very early stage now, but when you talk about merging, or about sharing services, people always think is this going to mean job losses. Do you think it will?
JOHN HOLDICH: Well no. I think it could well maintain jobs and improve services. I genuinely believe that, and I would only look at something that was of benefit to Peterborough and our local residents. We are losing budgets as you said in your introduction. Peterborough has got another £15 million to save in the coming year. So if you could save money you don’t have to make those reductions, therefore you can maintain your staff levels.
DOTTY MCLEOD: John Holdich there, the new Leader of Peterborough City Council, a Conservative councillor of course.