LESSONS have been learnt from the abandoned merger between Stratford and Warwick district councils.
That is the view of Stratford District Council chiefs who commissioned an independent report
into the merger which saw the two authorities spend a combined £320,000 before the plan was ditched.
Council chiefs spent nearly two years working towards the creation of a new South Warwickshire District Council by April 2024.
But the planned merger was abandoned last April after the respective leaders of the two councils said there were ‘irreconcilable’ differences between their respective ‘approaches and ambitions’,
meaning the proposed merger could not go ahead ‘in the interests of residents and staff’.
SDC’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee commissioned a report, conducted by Shared Intelligence, into the merger. Warwick District Council also participated in the review.
The purpose of the report, funded mainly by the Local Government Association, was to help identify learning points and provide recommendations on issues to consider in similar situations.
The main findings were:
* A match on paper does not necessarily mean there is a cultural fit
* Vision needs to be developed and refined to maintain commitment
* Open dialogue is needed, allowing space for concerns to be raised
* The implementation plan needs to allow space to identify and resolve differences in the way of working
* Driving a merger programme needs single executive leadership
* The impact on staff is significant and creates new burdens and anxiety
SDC Coun Andrew Crump, who chaired the group which commissioned the review, said: “The learning points from this report will be extremely valuable to the council and indeed the whole sector.
“In the spirit of positivity and collaboration that drove the two councils to investigate the possible merger so thoroughly, we’re delighted that it can be shared with local authorities across the country to guide the vision and understanding in any future similar operations.”
SDC leader Coun Tony Jefferson, added: “Whilst it is disappointing that the merger did not progress, both councils are continuing to work positively together for the wider benefit of our residents. I welcome this report and will certainly take into account the recommendations when considering future joint working proposals.”
A WDC spokesman said: “Warwick District Council thanks Shared Intelligence for its work on the report and hopes that the findings prove helpful for councils who may be contemplating closer working or collaboration.”
The full report is available to read on SDC’s website.