COUNCILS ‘MUST BE SMART’ IN ENGAGING WITH SHARED SERVICES AGENDA
Local Government will need to navigate its way successfully towards efficient partnering with other authorities or councils, or they will face being forced to change the ways they do business by the Comprehensive Spending Review, according to the independent think tank, the New Local Government Network in a report published today.
“The Politics of Shared Services” recommends ways in which authorities can take advantage of pooling their service provision, particularly in areas such as administration, Human Resources, finance and IT. The report is a guide to what the NLGN calls ‘the territory that Council Leaders and Chief Executives need to know’ if they are to learn lessons from those who have been trailblazers in this field. The report, which is supported by BT, the Improvement Service and Liberata, says that joining together the functions of a number of local councils requires adept footwork so that parochial concerns can be overcome and real gains can be made.
The Network’s Director, Chris Leslie, said the demand on local government for accountability meant that a transparent citizen-focused approach had to be at the heart of Shared Service strategies. Explicit statements of intended savings and benefits should be published at the outset of any new venture and there should be greater buy-in from the overview and scrutiny process. The Government, he said, should resist the urge to force change and should instead create a framework of incentives that would encourage authorities to share services and which would bring clarity over the retention of savings and stability on local government structures.
“The Government’s 30 million pound Regional Centres of Excellence need to prove their worth or exit the field, focusing on delivery and match-making authorities, and recognising local democratic sensitivities,” Mr. Leslie said, adding, “With the Gershonists demanding further efficiency savings, we localists believe pooled activities can occur without sacrificing cherished policies and clear oversight, but Councils will need to be smart in how they engage with this agenda.”