Third time lucky, Secretaries' groups pull off merger

Helen Sage reports

The Society of County Secretaries (SOCS) is to merge with the Association of Council Secretaries and Solicitors (ACSeS) to raise the profile of the profession.

The 110 county secretaries will join ACSeS on 1 November this year, completing a merger which was abandoned in 1993 and 1994 because of uncertainty over the future organisation of local government.

ACSeS, which provides independent representation for council solicitors and secretaries, will rewrite its constitution to accommodate the new membership.

David Hartas, ACSeS president, said: "Two years ago there was a strong view that there should be a unified voice in the profession. It was clear there was a duplication of SOCS and ACSeS efforts. The merger can only bring benefit."

Richard Mellor, head of legal at the London Borough of Richmond, was to assume the ACSeS vice-presidency at the beginning of 1997. But he will now stand aside for a year to allow Isle of Wight county secretary Felix Hetherington to take up the post.

Mellor welcomed the merger. "The new association will strengthen our representation," he said. "Since the introduction of unitary authorities there is a wider range of local authority work under one roof and we need to form a stronger front."

He said the main issues for discussion will be the future of the Local Government Ombudsman and new government proposals for increased compulsory competitive tendering.