Coming together whilst staying apart

By Rob Barlow | 19 October 2020

It’s an incredible understatement to say that 2020 has been a year of upheaval and uncertainty. Whilst we expected that we might have had some challenges in bringing together two councils, we’d never planned that for it to happen in the midst of a global pandemic.

Discussions about a strategic alliance between Boston BC and East Lindsey DC had been ongoing for a number of months before the full weight of the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier in the year, and many councils at that point would have perhaps seen it as a chance to take the easy way out, become introspective and focus on themselves. However, as our teams worked hard to respond to the impacts of the pandemic - issuing vital business grants, supporting our vulnerable residents and keeping our services ticking over – senior leaders and councillors continued to work together on how we could come out of this period of turmoil stronger.

In late June we were finally able to sign-off on our strategic alliance, with it coming into effect from July 1. The alliance sees both councils retain their own distinct political identities but a shared workforce and leadership team. The hopes of coming together in this way were that we’d be able to achieve substantial savings, at a time when they are more important than ever, and share access to a wider pool of talented colleagues; with residents not noticing any change in the services they rely on.

The reality of bringing two councils together, each with their own unique cultures and political make-up, hasn’t been without challenge especially against a backdrop of remote working, uncertain finances, and of course COVID-19. However, the benefits are already coming to the fore. Having worked to rapidly implement joint senior and corporate leadership teams, we now have the bones of a structure that will form the basis of our One Team approach over the coming months and years. This model has already helped us identify £600,000 of ongoing savings in the current financial year, with a further £1.2m for 2021/22, meaning we’re on track to save more than £15m over 10 years.

It may still be early days, but if we’re able to make this much progress in times like these, then I’ve no doubt that our alliance will prove to be a success in more prosperous times.

Rob Barlow is chief executive of Boston BC and East Lindsey DC



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