Will the new chief executive of Wandsworth and Richmond get paid more? How many members of staff will be affected by merging services?

These are just some of the questions we put to Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia following the announcement that some services are to merge with neighbouring Richmond.

Today's announcement, which came out of the blue, revealed there is to be a single chief executive, Paul Martin, and deputy chief executive and director of resources, Mark Maidment.

The shared staffing arrangement, expected to save £10m a year for each borough, will take effect from March 2017 after the retirement of Richmond chief exec Gillian Norton and Wandsworth deputy chief exec and director of finance Chris Buss.

Councillor Govindia said this was the beginning of the big savings which include further mergers between staff, teams and services.

Paul Martin, currently Wandsworth chief executive, is one of London’s highest paid chiefs, receiving a total remuneration package of £277,838 last year.

Wandsworth Times: Sutton Council’s chief executive Paul Martin is set to leave in autumn to take up the equivalent post at Wandsworth Council.

Paul Martin will be chief exec of both Wandsworth and Richmond 

What Councillor Govindia had to say:

Where does the £10m figure come from?

“At the moment we are looking at merging the two management teams so the statement deals with Paul Martin’s position and Chris Buss’s positions, so that gives you a flavour of where the savings are coming from.

“There will be other staffing related savings, less staff less offices, less offices less cost, that sort of stuff.

“This is an indication of the kind of change we can expect. £10m is not obviously made up of savings on these two.

“Starting with these two, other senior posts, other directors and then you go below the directors to heads of services, heads of teams.

“There is a similar discussion to be had about director of housing and community services in Wandsworth and his opposite number in Richmond, our director of adult services and children services and our opposite number in Richmond. So those discussions need to be had and we will come to views so again there will be a two into one kind of arrangement there.

“Then going below those we are looking at do we need the same legal team in both boroughs? Do we need the same personnel team in both boroughs? Do we need the same highway maintenance team in the borough?”

Do we know how many Wandsworth Council employees this will affect in the future?

“No I think that’s a level of detail that is very difficult to work out. We want to ensure that the staff team that will emerge from these discussions will be the best staff who are best qualified, best placed to deliver high quality services for two very discerning groups of residents.”

Where will Paul Martin be based?

“We are going to have to be quite grown up about how we work. Paul Martin will be at Wandsworth when all the important Wandsworth decisions require his attention and similarly he’ll be in Richmond when Richmond requires his attention.”

Will Mr Martin be able to deal with the extra workload or does he have the free time?

“I think this is a bit like the ‘have you stopped beating your wife?’ question isn’t it? If I say that he’s got bags of time in dealing with both; the allegation will be he’s not stretched enough. Or if I say ‘well you know it’s going to be tough’ then you say you are stretching the man beyond breaking point.

“The truth is we are talking about a different way of working and it’s been done elsewhere, in other boroughs. The mergers of boroughs or different forms of government is nothing new.”

What does Mr Martin do from day-to-day?

“It’s one of those jobs where, it sounds quite glib when you say he provides leadership to the staff team, but it’s an important part of the job that he sets the culture, the tone, he advises his colleagues of directors as well as provides guidance and advice to councillor, in particular with me.”

Will Mr Martin get a pay rise?

“No. The whole idea of finding savings is we are talking about one chief executive. His remuneration is not going to change.”

Given the different demographics of Richmond and Wandsworth– will merging services work?

"The part of our getting together does not mean that we will become one. We are two boroughs and we will remain two boroughs. We will have two very distinct ways of doing things, service standards, service needs – all of those things will remain unique to each place. The idea behind the announcement is the management of those services would be done by a single team rather than two separate teams.”

How long have talks been going on for?

“These are conversations between friends – it’s very difficult to pin down when it started and when it ended. But you know Kingston, Richmond Wandsworth have been friends over many months and we’ve always been looking at opportunities of saving our residents money where we can whenever we can.”

Will there be plans in the future to include Kingston?

“Like all of these things there are opportunities there for other boroughs to join us. Wandsworth provide pensions services to a number of boroughs. If Kingston wanted to join we’d be interested in discussing things.”