Discussions over closer working between Oldham and Rochdale councils have stalled. The authorities had been talking to each other for several months about ways in which they could work together to save money, but Oldham Council Chief Executive Charlie Parker made the surprise announcement today that those talks were off.
In an e-mail to council staff, obtained by Saddleworth News, he said: “Over the last few months we’ve been working closely with Rochdale Council to investigate opportunities for joint working. This Wednesday a paper was due to be presented to full council outlining a set of proposals for joint working between the two councils.”
He went on: “Regrettably, following discussions between members and officers in both Oldham and Rochdale, both authorities have decided not to move forward with these proposals at this time. As a result this paper will be withdrawn from Wednesday’s full council meeting.”
Mr Parker’s e-mail continued: “As part of our ongoing work to identify the budget savings we need over the next three years we will continue to talk to other authorities, including Rochdale, about opportunities to work together.”
First to reveal the news was a Conservative member from Oldham, Cllr Ian Barker, who said that it was Rochdale rather than Oldham which had pulled out of the talks.
The discussions began in earnest in May, when five senior councillors from each of the two boroughs were appointed to a panel to look more closely into how joint working might help save money.
Oldham has already been forced to cut £41m from its budget for the current financial year, because of cuts in central government funding. About £300,000 of those savings came from closer working with Rochdale. It was hoped that figure could be significantly expanded in an attempt to ease budget worries at both authorities.
A further £24m must be trimmed from the 2012/13 budget in Oldham, with another £14m needed in 2013/14 and an additional £13m required in 2014/15. Rochdale, having already found £64m of savings for the current financial year, is facing even larger cutbacks than Oldham in the near future.
(Editor’s note: I’ll update this story as and when we get official reaction from the councils. In the meantime, if you’ve got any views, please feel free to leave them in the comments below)
(UPDATE 19/7: To read about a joint statement issued by the leaders of the two councils, click here)