Ties between Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council have strengthened with the senior management teams across both unitary authorities now almost entirely shared.
Both councils will now share a single leader for the portfolio of ‘Place and Economy’. He or she will lead major infrastructure projects including the landmark North Westgate development in Peterborough and redevelopment of the wider city centre area.
Only the role of chief financial officer is being kept separate as both authorities tackle huge budget deficits following years of government cuts to its funding.
Chief executive Gillian Beasley, who became the first senior officer to be shared across both authorities, said sharing roles improves “outcomes and finances”. The latest changes are expected to save £90,000 a year as other officers below senior management level will be shared across the councils.
But leader of the city council Liberal Democrat group Cllr Nick Sandford said: “I have some concerns about how far the process is going to continue.
“I have no objection of sharing with other councils as that’s achieving savings, but we are always sharing with Cambridgeshire and we have very little in common with them. And I have some concerns we are losing our autonomy. How far is it going to go?”
Leader of Peterborough City Council Cllr John Holdich rejected claims sovereignty could be lost.
Currently, there are five district and two unitary authorities across the county, as well as the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority - which Cllr Holdich is deputy mayor of.
The combined authority is due to review the future of local government in the county, and Cllr Holdich said: “My personal view is for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to be split into two or possibly three authorities. You could have two chief executives instead of seven.
“I will certainly be putting that proposal forward.”
The city council leader also defended having the combined authority on top of all the other local councils, stating that it is a “strategic” body.
The new place and economy role will replace the corporate director of growth and regeneration portfolio in Peterborough which is currently held by Simon Machen, who was on an annual salary of around £125,000. He is now taking redundancy.
Mrs Beasley said she wanted to thank him for the “fantastic job” he had done, in particular over the Fletton Quays development. She said the councils expect to attract “high calibre” candidates for the new role. A final salary has yet to be confirmed.