A COUNCIL leader says his authority's plans for redundancies and cost cutting are crucial to modernise.

Conservative Cllr John Williams claims the Taunton Deane Borough Council 'transformation' is needed to replace the "outmoded and unaffordable" traditional approach.

He was responding to accusations by LibDem Cllr Habib Farbahi he is overseeing the "disintegration" of the Deane, which is merging with West Somerset Council next year.

Mr Habib slammed the ruling Tories for:

  • paying "at least £600,000 to consultants to dismantle services" that will cause disruption and create a "dysfunctional organisation";
  • hacking spending by 22 per cent, leading to "over 100 job losses", with £3.5 million set aside for redundancy payments;
  • terminating staff contracts, resulting in the potential loss of experienced employees;
  • anyone wishing to stay must re-apply for new posts - even though he says they won't know what those jobs involve;
  • splashing £1.3 million on agency staff last year due to recruitment problems;
  • £1 million spent on 'people managers' rather than on frontline roles.

Mr Habib said: "This Tory administration is causing serious and irreversible damage not only to our services and finances, but also to our democracy at large."

A Deane spokesman said the changes, which include "new roles and responsibilities", will enable both councils to tackle customer needs and improve services.

He said: "This will be achieved by taking advantage of new technology and making our processes and ways of working more modern and efficient.

"The traditional approach is outmoded and no longer affordable.

"We'll be more responsive and flexible to give customers a 'seamless' service as far as possible, dealing with a single point of contact."

The changes and the merger aim to deliver annual savings of £3.1 million, with costs cut by about 22 per cent.

The spokesman added: "It will inevitably lead to a reduction in the number of staff.

"However, we're looking to do this through efficiencies as opposed to specific numbers, so it isn't possibly to say how many people may be affected."

Agency staff are being used to "cover gaps" in the short term.

Mr Williams said joint working with West Somerset has saved £1.8 million annually since 2014 and helped avoid service cuts, while all councillors have had and still have the chance to express their views.

He added: "We have to make savings.

"We've seen our funding reduce substantially, so we have to look how we can maintain efficient and cost-effective services our residents value and make the council fit for purpose.

"It's delivering better for less. We're modernising today so that we're ready for tomorrow. We're ahead of many councils in that respect."