SOUTH Cambridgeshire District Council looks set to lose two of its nine-strong top management team.

The council has begun consulting employees on losing its executive director (operational services), corporate manager (community and customer services) and the head of accountancy, partly to finance creation of a new post of head of planning & economic development with the £120,000-a-year saving.

But losing Steve Hampson's executive director post - one of the top three at the authority - would put it back to the position its was in in 2006 when the Audit Commission said the leadership structure was not robust - if one of the two senior officers were on holiday and the other taken sick, there would be a leadership vacuum.

To prevent that, a second executive director post, currently held by Alex Colyer, who is expected to keep his post, was created.

Staff are being told that the current structure is very hierarchical and would benefit from simplification, with greater clarity, accountability and empowerment, and that "a change in approach from central Government has provided an opportunity to reduce bureaucracy previously imposed on the council and focus on what matters most to our residents".

The consultation on the senior jobs follows the 'deletion' of 30 posts from the 438 full-time equivalent jobs at the Cambourne-based authority at the end of 2009. A final decision will be taken by the council in January.

Huntingdonshire District Council also has a two-person top team following the departure of chief executive David Monks in August on enhanced voluntary redundancy terms, but HDC has an executive leader. SCDC has no plans to give its leader, Councillor Ray Manning, the same executive responsibilities. Nor is it offering enhanced redundancy terms to those to whom it plans to bid farewell.

Chief executive Jean Hunter, who has now led the council for a year, told The Hunts Post: "We are currently consulting with staff on plans to remove three management posts and, although we do not take these decisions lightly, we need to make sure we continue to have a flexible, agile and affordable workforce that is focused on delivering residents' priorities.

"We were aware more than two years ago of cuts to the Government funding we would receive, so we took immediate action to help manage our finances, with a handful of compulsory redundancies being necessary as part of deleting 30 posts from the council.

"By taking tough decisions at an early stage we put ourselves in a better position than most other councils, and we plan to make other efficiency savings through better use of IT systems and by bringing our contact centre in-house."