TWO councils are set to merge to deliver front-line services in a move which will save millions each year.

Lewes District Council’s cabinet will be presented with a report seen by The Argus at their meeting tonight.

The report has cross-party support by Lewes district councillors, but a union has expressed concern over redundancies and staff stress levels.

The merger between Lewes and Eastbourne Borough Council would save up to £2.9m a year, and with local authorities facing increased cuts from central government, Lewes District Council chief executive Jenny Rowlands said the two councils are seizing the initiative.

She said: “The main point is that local authorities are not waiting around for cuts to happen elsewhere.

“We’re not sticking to our old boundaries and there will probably be an improvement to services.

“People just want to pick up the phone or walk into an office and get excellent service – do they mind whether they are sharing between two services? No they don’t.”

The two councils already share HR teams and lawyers, but the new initiative will see them deliver housing, council tax, benefits, waste and planning as one.

It will run with one chief executive and one management team, but East Sussex County Council will still be in charge of transport, education, and social care.

Jenny Rowlands believes the partnership will be in place in about a year, and is already in contact with other local authorities over similar arrangements.

Lewes District Council’s acting leader Andy Smith said: “What we’re doing here is seeing the future and reacting to it now rather than letting it take control of us later.”

Redundancies are expected if the plans are agreed, but Coun Rowlands told The Argus redundancies would have been much higher in the long-term if the merge does not form.

She said: “If you stayed still, you’d almost certainly be reducing the level of service – it just doesn’t add up.

“You’ve got less money and you’re not sharing – you have to start cutting.

“If you’re not creative or proactive, you’ll be reactive and that means you’ll be laying people off.”

Eastbourne Borough Council will put the report to its cabinet on October 21, but leader David Tutt said: “We are committed to safeguarding frontline services while saving money through efficient practices.

“We already share some services with Lewes District Council and this report examines extending our working partnership further.”

Coun Smith expects this merger to be the blueprint for future local government mergers.