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EXCLUSIVE: Counties assess collaboration

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Councils not included in the government’s ‘Total Place’ initiative are moving ahead with their own plans to assess the potential benefits of cross-public sector collaboration.

Cambridgeshire and Essex County Councils are set to undertake audits of public spending in their areas similar to the initiative outlined in the Treasury’s flagship efficiency review.

The projects are be funded by Improvement East, the East of England improvement & efficiency partnership, which estimates each pilot will cost between £300,000 and £500,000.

Chairman of Improvement East’s member panel Richard Stay (Con) said: “The plans have got to get member approval but subject to that, we would like to get moving as soon as possible.

“The benefit of not being part of the government’s programme is that we can do it to our own timetable and nuance it to our needs. If these go well, we hope to role the initiative out across other councils in the region.”

Signed off

The decision has already been signed off by all the top-tier chief executives in the region and is scheduled to be put to a members’ panel in June.

If approved it would make it the first RIEP to sponsor such a project.

LGC also understands Barnet LBC is set to join the programme. A Barnet spokesman said nothing had been confirmed but admitted: “It is an exciting project that we would be keen to be involved in.”

Total Place

The news is a further indication of how influential Total Place, outlined in the Treasury’s Operation Efficiency Programme (OEP), could be in determining councils’ future budgets and how they are calculated.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears announced in April that 13 areas had been chosen to pilot the initiative, including Birmingham City Council, Croydon LBC and Kent CC.

Total Place is based on the Counting Cumbria project, which was published in December. It calculated that £7.1bn worth of public money was spent across the county in 2006-07.

The OEP report said: “[The] approach asks fundamental questions about how public money comes together and is spent in places and how the distribution and configuration of services can be improved to drive improved outcomes and greater efficiency.”    

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