“EVERY stage” of Waverley’s back-office merger with Guildford Borough Council will come back to full council for a final decision, Waverley leader Paul Follows said as councillors voted to press ahead with plans to recruit a joint chief executive on Tuesday night.

Waverley members were asked to approve a draft job description for the new £150,000-a-year chief officer to lead both councils at Tuesday’s ‘extraordinary’ meeting – with hopes that the role could be filled as early as this October to direct the next stages in the cost-cutting collaboration.

Concerns were raised by Waverley’s Tory opposition, along with Farnham Residents’ Cllr Jerry Hyman, that the council was “putting the cart before the horse” by advertising for a joint chief executive before signing off an inter-authority agreement (IAA) setting out exactly how the collaboration will work.

And several opposition councillors also challenged the recommendation by Waverley officers that the joint chief executive post be “ring-fenced” for internal candidates only “in the first instance” – initially limiting councillors to a choice between Waverley’s current chief Tom Horwood and his Guildford counterpart James Whiteman.

But Waverley’s portfolio holder for business transformation, Cllr Peter Clark, said if councillors were minded to make an appointment internally, “it is our hope the new joint chief executive will be in place as soon as this October”.

He added: “Once this has been done and the IAA is signed by both councils, then the work really gets under way developing business cases for shared services, which is where major savings will be found.”

David Maycock, of South East Employers brought in to advise the council, told councillors they have a legal duty to avoid redundancies, and endorsed the recommendation to recruit internally first.

And council leader Cllr Follows said: “The process is clear. If the recruitment panel makes a recommendation, it will come back to both councils for a decision. If they don’t, the post will be advertised externally.

“When the IAA is finalised, it too will come back to council. Every stage of this will come back to council.”

Cllr Follows also praised the “civil” debate, as councillors voted 26 ‘for’, to 18 ‘against’, the draft job description.