We are on a journey of unprecedented change at Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset Council.
Since 2013 the two councils have shared a joint management and workforce, which has led to savings of £1.8m a year. In early 2017 the two councils submitted a business case to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government for proposals to create a single new council to cover both areas and make additional savings of £3.1m per annum.
In March 2018, councillors took the brave decision to stand down the two existing local authorities and deliver the new council by April 2019. Shortly afterwards the Secretary of State, Rt Hon Sajid Javid announced that he would approve the proposals, with the final decision being subject to parliamentary approval. We are currently setting up a Shadow Authority with the intention of holding elections in May next year. The new council will be called Somerset West and Taunton.
With this change has come the unique opportunity to wholeheartedly transform our ways of working. We aim to create an organisation that will help us move from a traditional service based structure to a borderless and flexible way of working that is fundamentally aligned to our priority of championing people, place and prosperity.
We aim to become a world changing organisation that delivers exceptional customer experiences. This involves disrupting our current reality in order to create an environment where staff are empowered and flourishing; with improved performance and intuitive ways of working.
We are investing over £7m in our ‘Transformation Programme’; in new technology, refurbished accommodation space, reviewing our processes, supporting staff through the change and putting in place a new operating model.
The new model is innovative and radical for a local authority and requires a new style of leadership. It includes a new Behaviour Framework and organising ourselves around themes and job families.
Fundamentally we want to shepherd in a more commercial, bolder and inspirational approach that remains focused on our core ambitions. For instance, we are looking at plans for how we can maximise the potential of our unique Deane Helpline Service.
This is not to say that we are doing away with everything that has been successful in the past. In some cases we want to actually do more of it. For example, the investment we made in supporting Somerset County Cricket Club in building their new stand by providing them with a low cost loan, or our work with partners in Minehead to source funding and deliver a £1m programme of work to improve the seafront.
We want to shape a smarter future for ourselves, one that will help us deliver exceptional customer experiences within a sustainable, modern, and forward looking environment.