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BLAZING THE CO-OPERATION TRAIL - NW COUNCILS WORKING TOGETHER TO SAVE TIME, EFFORT AND MONEY

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A plan for a dozen councils in the North West to work together on improving ...
A plan for a dozen councils in the North West to work together on improving

some important public services has won support from the government.

And this project is just the first of many involving all ten councils in

Greater Manchester, two other nearby councils, and the police, fire and

passenger transport authorities, aimed at pooling skills and knowledge to

save time, effort and money.

The DTLR invited bids for projects to develop strategic service delivery partnerships to be given Pathfinder status.

Councils throughout the country put in a total of 117 bids - and one of the

24 that were successful was the Greater Manchester councils' bid, led by

Rochdale MBC.

'The idea of the Pathfinder project is for all 12 councils to share ideas on

the best way to provide education and social services that are too

specialised for each council alone to provide cost-effectively in its own

area,' said Roger Ellis, chief executive of Rochdale MBC.

'Instead of each council doing its own thing, we are working together to

save time, effort and money. This is an extension of the co-operation on

issues that affect more than one council that has been going on for some

time.

'This might result in some services - such as residential school places for

pupils with emotional or behavioural difficulties - being provided jointly

by more than one council or being bought from another organisation by more

than one council as a package deal.'

Peter Roberts, leader of Rochdale MBC, said: 'This positive

co-operation between the councils clearly demonstrates our commitment to

provide services of a value and quality that will stand comparison with the

best available from any source, public or private. By pooling our expertise

we should all see significant benefits from these projects.'

Winning Pathfinder status means the education and social services project

will qualify for expert advice and support on setting up and managing

service partnerships from the DTLR's Strategic Partnering Taskforce.

The outcome of the project will be shared with all 12 councils involved in

the wider co-operation arrangement.

This first Pathfinder project will be developed alongside 10 similar local

projects focusing on enhancing other services, under the umbrella of the

Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA).

Those projects will consider recruitment advertising; payroll and other

financial services; processing benefit claims; IT support services;

construction-related professional services; legal services; computer audit;

trading standards; brokerage of education services; and carrying out best

value reviews.

A separate bid for pathfinder status for those 10 projects together was not

successful but the DTLR has expressed a very high level of interest in

following and supporting these projects.

Investigations are also underway into the feasibility of projects focusing

on vehicle fleet management, and management and maintenance of parks and

open spaces.

The councils involved in the co-operation initiative are the ten Greater

Manchester authorities - Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale,

Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan - plus the nearby unitary

councils Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool, and the Greater Manchester

police, fire & civil defence, and passenger transport authorities.

A steering group has been set up to oversee the projects. It is chaired by

Roger Ellis, chief executive of Rochdale MBC, and includes experts in

education and social services (Blackpool BC and Wigan MBC), legal issues

(Stockport MBC), finance (Oldham MBC), best value (Rochdale MBC), a representative of the fire authority and one from the AGMA secretariat based in Wigan.

Jon Mitchell, a policy & community planning officer seconded from Rochdale

Council, has been appointed project manager to co-ordinate the projects.

The Improvement & Development Agency (IDeA) - a national body dedicated to

promoting best practice in local government - will be working with the

project manager, providing valuable resources and support to all of the

projects. The IDeA will use the AGMA projects as an example of best

practice in innovative service development and enhancement.

* Issued on behalf of the ten Greater Manchester authorities - Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan - plus the nearby unitary councils Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool, and the Greater Manchester police, fire & civil defence, and public transport authorities.

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