Headlines: May 9th, 2008

Chief executives of the unitary councils to be set up in April 2009 will face severe challenges and heightened expectations of the people who live in Bedfordshire, Cheshire, Cornwall, Durham, Northumberland, Shropshire, and Wiltshire. Local Government Minister John Healey has called for these councils to take advantage of their new start to bring in fresh blood to the senior management teams. He has also given an assurance that the employment rights of all staff affected by the changes will be protected.

The Minister believes that new senior officers with fresh skills, experiences and new perspectives will be vital in creating a successful future for these flagship councils. To ensure that there is a rigorous search for talent for the top post the chief executive must be recruited by open competition by April 2010. It is also expected that the majority of top posts will also to be subject to open competition over a period.

Arrangements are being made to ensure that employees will be protected under TUPE, and all employees of councils which will cease to exist on 1 April 2009 who are in post immediately prior to that date will become employees of the new unitary councils. Those employees will transfer to the new councils onterms and conditions no less favourable than those that applied under their previous employer.

The new unitary councils will be forged out of 35 existing councils and this will provide opportunities for stronger local strategic leadership,innovative arrangements for empowering communities, and an overhaul of local services. Councils expect that annual savings of over 100m pounds will be available to improve front line services or to keep down council tax bills.