More than £800 million of taxpayers’ money has been saved by councils sharing services, according to new analysis by the Local Government Association.
The latest shared services map from the LGA, published today, shows that there are now 555 individual shared service arrangements across the country, resulting in £840 million of cumulative efficiency savings.
Shared services are now an essential part of day-to-day service delivery and have become business-as-usual for most councils. The main objective now is about improving performance and services as councils do their best to meet the needs and aspirations of their local residents.
Co-procurement ranked highly across all the cash savings through shared services arrangements, followed by shared back office services and management teams.
Analysis shows there has been a rise in councils sharing their counter fraud provisions, pooling their resources and widening their focus in the prevention of fraud which has resulted in some very significant savings over the last few years.
These include Hertfordshire Anti-Fraud Services, East Lindsey’s East Coast Business Rates Assurance Function, Lincolnshire’s Counter Fraud Partnership, Preston’s City, Coast & Countryside Counter Fraud Partnership, the North Yorkshire & York Counter Fraud Initiative, and Lewisham, Southwark, Greenwich, and Lambeth’s no recourse to public funds programme.
However, these partnerships are offering more than just savings, by creating bigger teams with a wider remit and standardising detection, there has been an increase in the resilience of councils in the fight against fraud which has a knock on effect to all our residents.
Shared services are moving towards collaborative transformation – creating new, better, lower-cost ways of working that put the resident, tenant or patient at the heart of the service.
Sometimes that directly saves money, but more frequently it reframes the relationships between councils and blurs departmental boundaries. Camden, Haringey & Islington Shared Digital is an example of a collaborative transformation with really good outcomes for homeless people.
A closer look at the findings suggest at least a fifth of the collaborations were not set up to make savings.
One of the largest growths in collaborations came from community safety entries, spurred on by the duty to collaborate across emergency services with examples such as domestic abuse reduction through joint working, multi-agency support for vulnerable elderly.
West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service and Trading Standards were placed in a single public protection directorate to foster more effective joint working on a range of projects to ensure the safety of vulnerable people and communities across West Sussex. These include undertaking joint visits to high risk premises where human trafficking and modern slavery may exist and jointly identifying vulnerable residents at risk of scams through home safety visits.
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, NHS England and the four Cheshire local authority public health teams, have also been working together to support key local health priorities as part of a ‘Safe and Well’ programme that focuses on those identified as being at risk from fire, while making referrals for smoking cessation and reducing alcohol intake.
Cllr Paul Bettison, Chairman of the LGA’s Improvement and Innovation Board, said:
“Our latest shared services map shows once again that when it comes to making efficiency savings there is none better than local government.
“Shared services are no longer just something the most innovative councils do, but have instead become the norm for councils to improve services, increase resilience and save money in times of significant change, reinforcing councils’ reputation as the most efficient part of the public sector.
“But while councils have done an outstanding job in making efficiency savings in the face of severe budgetary pressures, there is only so much they can do.
“Efficiency savings alone will not plug the £5 billion funding gap facing local government by 2020. Without new funding, local services could soon reach a point where there is nothing left to share or collaborate with.”