Green light for council link-up

Brentwood and Essex councils have agreed to form an unprecedented partnership.

After an impassioned and, at times, heated debate on Tuesday night, 27 Conservative and two Labour councillors agreed to the new partnership, which will see Joanna Killian work as joint chief executive of Brentwood Council and Essex County Council.

Ms Killian's appointment will cost Brentwood Council £30,000 - when someone in that position could expect to be paid up to £150,000.

She will take up her new position on October 1 and the present chief executive, Bob McLintock, who has announced he is retiring, will carry on working as head of services until she appoints a deputy.

The five Liberal Democrat councillors were vociferous in their opposition to the proposal and accused Brandon Lewis, Brentwood Council leader, of "riding roughshod" over the electorate by agreeing to the plan before the full council had debated the issue.

Mr Lewis opened the meeting by outlining why he believed the joint partnership was the best option for Brentwood.

He said: "We do have an opportunity ahead of us to do something that is forward-thinking. This gives us an opportunity to save a huge amount of money and to integrate with the county council so we have a seamless two-tier system."

Phil Baker, ward councillor for Shenfield and Essex county councillor for Brentwood North, seconded the leader's proposal.

He said: "This proposal is not a merger. Brentwood Borough Council and Essex County Council will retain their distinct identities. It will also allow service improvements for residents.

"By having the foresight to move forward with this, Brentwood Council is setting an example for the rest of the county."

However, Liberal Democrat leader David Kendall called for a referendum to be held. The 27 Conservative and two Labour councillors rejected this idea, although the five Lib Dems voted for it.

Mr Kendall said: "The Liberal Democrats are against this proposal. We want Brentwood Borough Council to have its own chief executive who deals solely with the needs of Brentwood residents. We don't want this partnership or the integration of services.

"I'm unhappy about the way this motion was handled. Many residents feel this has been rushed, that it's policy on the hoof."

Brentwood South councillor and Labour group leader, David Minns, said: "The process of how it was handled was wrong. County councillors were also kept in the dark.

"However, I'm for this because there have been too many things in my ward that have been continually frustrated by a lack of communication between the borough and county council."