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are Councils beginning to turn their back on sharing services?

7 December 2011

Some local councils may be losing the appetite for sharing front and back office services after a recent report from the Local Government Association (LGA) revealed that only 219 councils in England are currently sharing services.

According to the LGA who represents more than 350 councils, around six out of ten councils in England are currently sharing services such as waste, recycling, and back office functions such as human resources and payroll.

However research by law firm Browne Jacobson carried out less than a year ago concluded that nine out of ten councils at the time were or were looking to share either back office functions, front line services or a combination of the two with other councils and public bodies.

Browne Jacobsons research also revealed that 68 of local authorities were looking for more sharing of front line services by the end of the year and with 91 of senior managers targeting front line services within the next 2 years.

Peter Ware, head of the government and infrastructure team at Browne Jacobson, is concerned that the severity of the austerity measures faced by the public sector could be discouraging some from exploring innovative ways of achieving efficiency savings and is calling on councils to get shared services back on the agenda.

Peter Ware added:

"It is encouraging to see that the majority of councils in England still see the potential efficiency savings that can be made by sharing back office and front line services.

"But with the public sector facing over 700,000 job losses over the next six years it is understandable why some councils may be losing the appetite for greater collaborative working to concentrate on more immediate issues.

"Some of the traditional barriers our research identified back in January may seem insurmountable at the moment but sharing back office and frontline services is potentially a good way to making significant efficiency savings.

"The successful waste management partnership between Tamworth and Lichfield saving £1 million is an excellent example of what can be achieved.

"Our research revealed a noticeable change in attitudes towards merging both back office and front line services earlier this year. It is important that the momentum continues in order that councils have a full suite of options open to them when endeavouring to minimise the impact of the austerity measures introduced by the coalition government."

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Lakhbir Rakar

Lakhbir Rakar

PR Manager