Two council housing services with more than 800 staff could be merged

SERVICE MERGER Coun Cathy Scott will recommend the two services are brought together.
SERVICE MERGER Coun Cathy Scott will recommend the two services are brought together.

Senior Kirklees councillors will make a decision on merging two services that deal with managing and and maintaining homes.

Kirklees Cabinet will be asked to agree to merge council subsidiary Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing (KNH) and Building Services to save money.

Coun Cathy Scott (Lab, Dewsbury East), cabinet member for housing, said the merger would be the best option, improving standards and services.

She said: “This has been an extensive process of narrowing down options and fully investigating the ones we thought were most viable.

“We have consulted widely with tenants and residents groups, employees of both KNH and Building Services, political groups, trade unions, the KNH board and the wider public and schools through an online survey.

“I am now confident that the merger is the right plan in principle, and we need to move quickly now to set out the clear contractual arrangements and expectations that will need to be in place.”

If the proposal is approved the new body will take responsibility for the management and maintenance of around 22,500 homes across the district.

There are currently around 500 Building Services staff and 320 KNH staff.

The council did not rule out job cuts when asked by the Reporter Series but said it had not identified savings how saving would be made and that more work would be needed if cabinet gives the green light.

It said a report into the proposal showed there were clear opportunities to save money and the possibilities there would be surplus funds to be reinvested into the service.

But the report said some of the negative implications of a merger could include an increase in financial pressure on other council budgets, union opposition, a “lack of commercial culture” in the organisation and a risk that the new organisation would be outside direct council control.

Coun Scott said: “I will recommend the merger having taken all of the option appraisals into account. These are two high performing organisations and they would merge to build on those strengths and improve still further.”

A council spokeswoman said: “As with all services we want to achieve efficiencies and innovative ways of working. Savings are not just about reducing the workforce, as is clear in the report. At this point we have not identified how any efficiencies would be achieved and there will be a need for further work if Cabinet gives the go ahead.”

Cabinet will discuss the proposal on Tuesday February 9.