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Financial costs and benefits

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Communities secretary John Denham has highlighted potential savings of £20bn from better asset management identified by the Total Place programme, and called for a more open debate about the best way to provide services locally.

We hope that our Front Office Shared Services (FOSS) research, by complementing the work of the Audit Commission and the Total Place programme, will make a key contribution to that debate.

Typically in such initiatives, public agencies bring together related services in a shared delivery infrastructure - a one-stop shop, call centre or website. Collaboration enables improved outcomes for citizens, the community and the partners themselves.

There is already strong evidence for the customer and social benefits of FOSS projects. Our 2010 research investigates their financial costs and benefits.

In fact, a ‘Total Capital’ approach could lead to a shared asset register for an area, providing the catalyst for rationalising land and property owned by the public sector in each locality.

We are working with local councils, including Kent CC and Tameside MBC, to develop a framework for capturing the financial elements of a FOSS business case. Our work will complement the focus on strategic asset management that came out of the Audit Commission report Room for Improvement and the Total Place pilots.

According to the commission, good progress is being made on sharing assets between public agencies and nearly two-thirds of councils indicate that development of Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) and Local Area Agreements (LAAs) will make them more likely to share assets.

However, much of this activity is currently ad hoc.

A next step would be for LSPs to align their capital programmes and assets around the priority outcomes set out in their LAAs.

Such an approach is reinforced by calls for Comprehensive Area Assessment to assess how well local partnerships are exploiting combined resources and by the increasingly important asset strand in the Total Place programme.

Siobhan Coughlan, Improvement & Developement Agency programme manager, service transformation

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