Merger disaster – Critics Speak Out
Yesterday South West & Taunton Council published the audit report on the failed merger between Taunton Deane and West Somerset. Mike Rigby (Portfolio Holder for Planning and Transportation) spoke to us about the report highlighting the issues that the current administration has inherited.
He told The Leveller® “It was obvious as soon as we took control of the council that the so-called transformation had gone horribly wrong. It was predicated on the basis that council services could be delivered by fewer face-to face and telephone contacts, with IT and a new website taking the strain. It was expected that the changes would enable 120 jobs to be lost. Through a hamfisted redundancy policy, 200 staff actually left, almost doubling the cost of the scheme. And at the point when those 200 staff had left, almost none of the magic IT that was supposed to replace them was in place.
It’s hard to conceive how the Conservatives’ Transformation project could have gone more badly wrong. Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong, did. The costs spiralled to such an extent that we are left with a black hole in our budget, which we’ve had to fill with raises in council tax and parking fees. Given that TDBC’s free-for-all redundancy programme was so horribly conceived, we’ve had to recruit more staff to fill the holes. I do hope that all those responsible for this mess will take a moment to reflect on how all the promises they made for this programme went so badly wrong on their watch.”
Meanwhile long term critic of the merger, MP Ian Liddell Grainger has been especially barbed in his comments: “The auditors have dug up a scandal. The plan to transform West Somerset and Taunton Deane councils was based on lies. The promised savings were inventions. The most basic research was missing. The redundancy scheme cost double because so many staff took advantage of its generous terms – including the Chief Executive! It was a disgraceful scheme which cost taxpayers a fortune and has left the new council with a system that still doesn’t work.”
Finally the role of Councillor Andy Sully is bound to be of interest.
Mr Sully was a Conservative Councillor at Taunton Deane Borough Council and also “Executive for Corporate Resources*”. Today however he sits as a LibDem councillor in the current SW&T administration.
*Mr Sully has asked us to point out that he was not “Executive for Corporate Resources and Transformation” as previously stated in this piece. He also contacted us to tell us that he had nothing to do with the Transformation exercise.