Monday 27 October 2014

Review On The Tri-Borough Shared Services Scheme Out Today

Lord Andrew Adonis published the Critical Friends Board
review today
The review of the council  shared services scheme that has become known as "tri-borough" was published today. You can read the executive summary here, the full report here and the press release put out by the Critical Friends Board here.

My colleagues and I have been broadly supportive of the idea behind this scheme from its inception and wrote about that in our manifesto. However we also had concerns about how it was put together back in 2010 and we raised those here when we were in Opposition. 

H&F's residents gave my fellow Labour councillors and I control of H&F Council in the local elections last May. We viewed it as vitally important that an independent review, devoid of vested interests, was immediately carried out. That has now concluded.

It is the most thorough and comprehensive analysis yet undertaken of the "tri-borough" initiative.  Indeed, it is the only independent review the three councils' shared services have undergone. I would like to thank Lord Andrew Adonis, Prof. Tony Travers and Deborah Lincoln for their enormous hard work and insights.

The shared services initiative has brought benefits to Hammersmith and Fulham although it is striking that the millions of pounds of savings so far achieved across the three councils are roughly equivalent to those delivered by Hackney and Lambeth and Camden on their own without undertaking such a sharing scheme. Those councils each delivered savings by stripping out layers of management instead of sharing them.

The three borough's shared services scheme will deliver a combined saving of £46.5million by 2015/16 which is well short of the £100million that the Rt Hon Eric Pickles (Con), the communities secretary, and his colleagues predicted here when the project was launched in 2010. 

The financial tsunami facing local government -  H&F is being required to make £71 million of cuts by 2017/18 - now requires a bigger and bolder approach to shared services while protecting local decision-making. I have acted immediately in implementing one of the major recommendations to appoint an exclusive chief executive for H&F. This brings about an immediate saving but also recognises the importance to each borough in having their own 'champion' directly accountable to elected representatives and therefore to borough residents. 

I have appointed Nigel Pallace as the interim chief executive to replace Nicholas Holgate who returns to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Nigel will take on the CEO's duties alongside his other role as H&F's Executive Director of Transport and Technical Services. I am grateful to Nicholas Holgate for all he has done for our borough. 

Further savings will be made from a review of senior management costs.  I am also waiting on Deloitte, which were appointed to support the review, to report back next week on an additional £1million of savings that has not already been identified by H&F's officers.

This landmark report lays the foundations for the future of shared services, not just at H&F but for all local authorities who are all facing tough financial circumstances. It recommends that shared services should not be about the creation of exclusive entities, which threaten local decision-making and accountability. It should be about sharing with as many boroughs as possible to deliver greater savings while retaining the ability for local councillors to set their own specification and standards.  That goes to the heart of each borough being able to fulfil its own democratic mandate.

I am grateful to each of the London Boroughs of Camden, Hackney and Lambeth and to our partners in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster City Council for sharing important information and co-operating with this review.

I look forward to working with the leaders of our two partner councils as we hope to build on their successes and the recommendations of the Critical Friends Board.

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