Two councils in south-west Hertfordshire could share more services in response to cuts in Government funding.

Watford Borough Council and Three Rivers District Council have been forced to slash their budgets after the Government reduced their share of the Revenue Support Grants they receive annually.

The authorities already share finance, IT, revenue and benefits, and human resources services and are exploring ways to increase this in the future.

However, Watford Mayor Dorothy Thornhill said today (Tuesday) a full merger between the councils was “a step too far”.

“We have not talked about a political merger at all because I know Three Rivers would never agree with it,” she said.

“What makes sense is for a South West Herts unitary authority, where there's one council responsible for a wider geographical area. We are different to the rest of Hertfordshire, more akin to north London, and it would make perfect sense and make huge savings.

“We will have to share more services but perhaps one council doing the role of two councils. Once this budget is put to bed, we need an away day to do a bit of blue sky thinking and see where the red lines are. We need to do that work.”

Councillor Ann Shaw, leader of Three Rivers District Council, added: "Political mergers are not on the agenda. The two councils are looking to increase the sharing of services in order to improve their efficiency, quality and value for money."

At a meeting of Watford council's Cabinet last night (Monday), Mayor Thornhill spoke about her recent trip to Westminster with Watford MP Richard Harrington, where they spoke about the level of Government funding afforded to the council with Bob Neill, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department of Communities and Local Government.

And she revealed Mr Neill “suggested” councils should team up to save money.

“There are always winners and losers,” Mayor Thornhill said. “That much is apparent and clearly it's the job of any good council to go and fight their corner. That's what we did.

“I brought up the issue that I feel there's an agenda of forced mergers of district councils. The Minister shot me a knowing look. It's clearly a political issue.

“The point I made was we cannot keep stripping away. You just cannot do it. There comes a point where we have to say what are we here for. What are we doing and that has to be taken on board.

“If that was the case, it would be better if they gave us some clear direction rather than let us bleed to death.

“I told him quite clearly I thought we were being forced to merge as councils. I made it quite clear I didn't want to preside over a council that's slowly being robbed of what it does.”

A representative from the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “Driving down the nation's deficit is the Governments biggest priority but we have made sure that extra money, powers and funding freedoms are available to protect frontline services and the public from council tax rises offering real help to hard working families and pensioners.

“This was a tough but fair settlement ensuring the most vulnerable communities were protected. If councils share back office services, join forces to procure, cut out the non-jobs and root out the over-spends then they can protect frontline services.”