Single vote defeats partnership between Melton and Harborough Councils

A move to create a ground-breaking strategic collaboration between Melton Borough Council and Harborough District Council has been torpedoed by the margin of just a single vote at a meeting last night (Monday).
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The proposed formal partnership was planned to start early in the new year with Melton’s chief executive, Edd de Coverly, at the helm of both authorities and shared deputy chief executives between the two councils.

It was always stressed that this was never a merger but the relationship would have saved both councils money by removing duplication, helping them to pool resources and increasing their influence in regional local government matters.

But Harborough councillors voted against the partnership following consideration of a business case report at yesterday’s meeting.

Melton councillors were due to consider their own business case on the proposals at a meeting later today but the item has now been withdrawn from the agenda.

Reacting to Harborough’s decision, Councillor Joe Orson, leader of Melton Council, said: “The initial proposition for a strategic partnership between the two councils presented a good opportunity for us to form an alliance giving us a greater voice and the opportunity to make savings while retaining excellent customer focused services for our community.

"Over the last few months, while we have worked on the business case for the partnership we have taken time to review how we provide our services and for some of them considered what a future collaborative model for these might look like.

"Whilst it is disappointing that Harborough District Council have not voted in favour of a more formal strategic partnership arrangement at this time, the case for working more closely with them remains and we will continue to explore opportunities over the coming months.”

Harborough had been looking for a formal partner following the retirement of its chief executive earlier this year and it had identified Melton as the preferred council to team up with.

Earlier this month, both cabinets approved a business case to fully explore the opportunities and risks associated with any partnership arrangement but the move was defeated at a meeting of the full Harborough Council by 16 votes to 15.

Councillor Phil King, leader of Harborough Council, said: “Obviously I am very disappointed by the outcome of the vote not to proceed with a strategic partnership with Melton Borough Council - disappointed for our residents, communities and staff.

"All local authorities are under severe financial pressure and if this had gone ahead it would have enabled both councils to build more financial and service resilience, resulting in better outcomes for residents.“By not voting to proceed with the strategic partnership, the council is going to face more of a challenge and we will need to look at how we do things going forward.

"This outcome doesn’t mean that we will stop working with partners like Melton Borough Council where there is a mutual benefit – this work just won’t be under the banner of a Strategic Partnership arrangement.”

Harborough District Council and Melton Borough Council already collaborate on several services including Lifeline personal alarm systems, out of hours service and parking enforcement.

Melton currently has 28 councillors while Harborough has 34 but Harborough’s population of 97,000 is almost double that of Melton borough.