SHARED SERVICES MOVES UP THE EFFICIENCY AGENDA
Delivering efficiency savings by sharing services is moving up the agenda in central and local government. Shared services is a key component of the Transformation Government strategy, the successor to the e-Government initiative, and a progress report on the strategy is due from the Cabinet Office next month.
In a move to change the culture and break down the barriers between central departments, councils and other public bodies, the government’s chief information officer has called for a forum or intranet service to enable the public sector to share ICT services. He said the service is needed to promote standardisation and cut down on time wasted in duplicating what another council or organisation has already done.
Sharing services is still at an early stage of evolution, but pioneers are emerging. Two of the North East’s largest local authorities have signed a shared services agreement that is likely to save them millions of pounds. Northumberland and Durham County Councils are using Oracle E-Business Suite software to make back office administration more efficient so that they can strengthen their front line services.
The deal, between the councils and Oracle, will enable them to share an integrated software package that will modernise and streamline their procurement and financial management systems to deal with financial planning, budgeting and reporting processes.
Durham County Council expects to save around 900,000 pounds a year on its back office support operation once the project is fully implemented. Durham will also save some of the capital costs of buying-in the same software system from scratch.
According to a survey by Public Sector Forums, a leading independent network for eGovernment practitioners, representing UK local authorities and their central government counterparts, two thirds of council managers support the Government’s shared services agenda. The survey also found that around a fifth of councils are implementing a shared service. This includes 20% with call centres , 21% with IT systems support, 22% with pay roll and 15% with HR and finance/accounting functions.