The Financial Times reports on a big increase in the number of councils sharing services to cut costs.
The Local Government Association told the Financial Times on Tuesday that 337 councils – out of the 353 across England – had set up partnerships designed to drive down expenditure….
The LGA’s figures on shared service agreements mark a 60 per cent rise from a year ago, when only 220 councils had such agreements. The LGA will say the 337 councils that struck 230 deals are helping local government to achieve £249m in annual efficiency savings, with another £169m of projected savings in the pipeline.
There has been a growing trend for cutting support office costs, such as human resources, legal services and accountancy. Perhaps the most striking example is in London, where three “tri-borough councils” are aiming to save £40m a year by 2015-16 through combining costs.
The trio – Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster city council – are sharing £300m of services, such as libraries and adult social care, and cutting management costs, with the loss of 175 senior posts.
The LGA has identified a trend in the increase in the number of authorities sharing frontline services, particularly in adult social care and services for children and young people.
Its other examples include a “music education hub” across nine Greater Manchester authorities, and a consortium of London libraries.
Cllr Peter Fleming, chairman of the LGA’s improvement and innovation board, and a Conservative councillor in Sevenoaks said councils were pushing “extremely hard” to find new savings. “Sharing services will not offset the cuts councils are facing, but they are being used to soften the blow,” he said.
In the case of my council, Hammersmith and Fulham, our savings from Triborough are huge – a lot more even than expected. There is plenty of scope to go further. Services have been improved. Cllr Fleming is right to say it doesn't offset the cut in Formula Grant – but in our case it probably offsets about half of it. 337 councils may be doing something on this area but they could be doing far more.This "music education hub" up in Manchester sounds welcome but the savings are probably loose change compared to our Triborough effort.
Some may be working "extremely hard" on it others are not. It is nonsense to dismiss calls from Eric Pickles for more to done by responding that we "are already doing it." We could and should do far more.
Where Cllr Fleming is on to something is in saying we need to "direct the chancellor’s attention towards those parts of the public sector which have not yet trimmed the fat."