A SENIOR management restructure at South Lakeland District Council has been unanimously agreed by councillors – paving the way for the loss of 45 job roles.

The proposals went before a meeting of the council in Kendal and were voted through with no objections or abstentions. They signal the start of a month-long staff consultation which will start on Tuesday.

The process starts the rollout of a project called “Customer Connect” which chief executive Lawrence Conway said would make SLDC the “go to” council for 21st century local government.

Quoting the council’s auditors, Mr Conway said: “We are either the first or one of the first to make this fundamental change. Those councils at the forefront of transformation are the ones that will survive and prosper.”

The project promises to deliver £8 million of savings over a decade, “much better” services for residents and a radical overhaul of the council’s culture and operation, the meeting was told.

Questions were raised, however, as to why Mr Conway’s own position was the only role to escape untouched in the restructure.

Deputy opposition leader, Tom Harvey (Con, Burton and Crooklands) said: “Under the new senior management team there’s only one role that doesn’t change – yours.”

Mr Conway added: “I can’t comment on my particular role. Customer Connect is a process I have been asked to undertake and has been in my appraisal for the last three years.”

Council leader Giles Archibald (Lib Dem, Kendal Town) said he took full responsibility for the appointment of Mr Conway to lead on Customer Connect. He said any councillor who disagreed, should table a no confidence vote.

“We needed to have stability at the top, there’s going to be a lot of change. Change is never easy or comfortable but it is very important,” said Mr Archibald.

Supportive councillors said SLDC needed a captain.

Cllr Ian Stewart (Lib Dem, Arnside and Milnthorpe) told councillors that if Mr Conway did not deliver on Customer Connect then the authority could look elsewhere.

“We, as an organisation, have not been unknown to say to a chief executive that if you’ve not delivered for us…bye, bye.”

Mark Wilson (Labour, Ulverston East) urged the council to listen to staff feedback but said he supported the new project.

Mr Conway praised staff for their “unwavering commitment” in uncertain times and said the consultation would allow them to contact him anonymously.

The feedback will be collated and then examined by a project board to shape the restructure.

Mr Conway said: “This is about delivering the council’s vision and priorities, empowering customers to become more self-sufficient, more commercially focussed, employing more suitably experienced staff, supporting the development of members, and delivering a sound financial platform which ultimately achieves year-on-year savings.”

Cllr Janette Jenkinson (Con, Ulverston) said she supported the project but added: “I still can’t get it in my head how it’s all going to work.”

The plans were passed with no objections or abstentions.