As reported last week, East Lindsey District Council and Boston Borough Council have put forward plans to join forces in several areas, with a view to saving around £1.8m per year.
Councillors will be asked to vote on the proposal in June, but opposition councillors say they were only told about the plan earlier this month - and have not had sufficient time to fully assess and scrutinise it.
Councillor Jill Makinson-Sanders, the leader of the Independent Group at ELDC, said that more time should be granted to ‘allay public fears’ that such a major decision is being taken under the cover of the coronavirus pandemic.
Coun Makinson-Sanders said: “The leader of the council, Coun Craig Leyland, states the ‘merger’ is commonsense and will eventually bring significant savings. This may well be the case but the devil is in the detail - and unfortunately councillors have not yet had the opportunity to look in any depth at these details.
“He adds that he is aware of some negative comments are largely from opposition councillors, and anything they are claiming is ‘speculation’. Unfortunately, what appears to be undue haste fuels such speculation and that is not helpful.
“To allay public fears that the council is taking this important decision under the cover of Covid-19, councillors need to be adequately briefed before a decision is taken.”
She continued: “If, as Coun Leyland claims, talks have been going on for the last 18 months, I would have expected a Members’ Day to be organised so councillors of all political groups could hear the facts and then ask as many questions as they feel are pertinent to allow them to take a decision in the best interests of the residents who elected them last spring.
“The rules of debate at a full council meeting only allow a member to speak once, so effective questioning is not comparable to a specially convened Members’ Day. This applies to councillors at Boston as well as East Lindsey.
“Most of us would not make a major decision in our private lives without doing our homework.
“Most of us take advice and look at the alternatives before we buy a new house, a different car or even a washing machine.
“The limited opportunity to be well-informed by a council meeting conducted on Zoom before we are expected to agree to any proposal hardly ticks my due diligence box.
“Surely we can delay a decision for up to a month to give all elected members the opportunity to be adequately briefed on such vital aspects of finances, reserves, staffing implications, levels of deprivation, challenges, opportunities, future vision, to name but a few aspects which any merger might throw up.
“Remember, all this is against a background of members working hard in their wards, including assisting companies facing bankruptcy, helping families struggling with increasing debt, and how we deal with safely opening up for tourism again.
“I know I have an open mind on a strategic alliance, and I am sure my colleagues in the Independent Group do too.
“But to serve our residents properly we need to be fully informed - a challenge in these challenging times, I agree.
“But Coun Leyland is a good man, so we ask him to do the right thing for the wellbeing of all our residents and just give us a bit more time!”
Following enquiries by the Louth Leader, Coun Leyland responded: “A number of briefing sessions have been held for group leaders at both East Lindsey District Council and at Boston Borough Council.
“These sessions have allowed us to share details of the proposed strategic alliance, which group leaders are then able to disseminate to their groups.
“If councillors feel like they would like further information, they can read through the comprehensive committee papers which have been published ahead of their consideration at Executive Board this week. Equally, should members feel they need further information, they can request a briefing.
“Should the Executive approve the item [at their meeting this evening, May 20], it will be considered by council on June 10, when councillors will be free to raise any queries.
“If it is then approved by council, all councillors will have an important role to play in shaping the merger of our services.”
• What do you think about the strategic alliance plans? Email [email protected] with your views.