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Thurrock and Barking shared chief agreed

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Barking & Dagenham LBC and Thurrock Council have confirmed their plans to share a chief executive.

The arrangement between the two Labour councils was first broached last month following the departure of Barking & Dagenham chief executive Stella Manzie.

Councillors at both authorities approved the plan at separate meetings on Wednesday night paving the way for the first joint chief executive to have a foot both inside and outside the capital.

Barking & Dagenham leader Liam Smith (Lab) said: “Not only is this a pioneering appointment due to the nature of the shared service role between a London and non-London borough, but it also offers real savings which will help us protect the front line that little bit more during a time of unprecedented government cuts.”

The arrangement will be reviewed after one year, a spokesman said.

Mr Farrant, who has been chief executive of Thurrock for almost two years and was formerly chief executive at Barking & Dagenham between 2000 and 2004, told LGC last month that the shared chief arrangement had “all happened very quickly” following the announcement of Ms Manzie’s departure.

The two councils already share one senior post, monitoring officer and head of legal services, and Mr Farrant said further sharing was a possibility.

“We are two fairly similar communities, both quite small for London unitary councils, both facing very similar challenges and I have knowledge of both,” Mr Farrant said. “We have already demonstrated that providing legal services for a [combined] population of 300,000 is more efficient than for 150,000.”

Mr Farrant said sharing would provide financial savings but also other benefits such as increased “capacity and expertise” and joint efforts on areas such as welfare reform. “Thurrock is having a discussion about the impact of welfare reform and Barking & Dagenham are having a pretty similar discussion about the impact on a very similar community,” he said.

When Ms Manzie’s departure was announced, which sources blamed on “an irretrievable breakdown in relations” with Barking & Dagenham’s leader, the council said she would leave after the Olympic Games.

However, Cllr Smith said this month that Mr Farrant would be responsible for making sure the Games went well in Barking & Dagenham.

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