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Call for direction on partnership working

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Central government may have to force councils to work together if local government is to hit the ambitious efficiency targets set out in the comprehensive spending review, a prominent chief executive has claimed.

Alan Jones, chief executive of Somerset CC, said the government needs to "get real" about the cost of pump-priming large-scale shared services projects. He claimedWhitehallwas "flaky" on the concept of partnership working.

"The government needs to think about giving not only incentives but also direction," he told LGC."Too many people want to do it on their own. We need some serious money to fund the start-up costs but we also need a degree of direction."

Somersetlaunched Southwest One this month a joint venture company with Taunton Deane BC andIBM to provide shared back-office services potentially to more than 30 other public sector bodies.

Mr Jones' comments came after the Treasury allocated£150m of modernisation funding to local government to help it achieve£4.9bn of efficiency savings over the next three years.

Officials from the Local Government Association and the Department for Communities & Local Government met on Friday to discuss how the cash should be spent.

A decision is expected alongside the local government finance settlement in December. Corin Thomson, programme director for improvement at the Local Government Association, said the money should be devolved to the newly formed regional improvement and efficiency partnerships.

"I would be very reluctant to invite central government to tell local government what to do," she said. "I would say let the sector take the lead."

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