Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Four districts plan to cease employing own staff

  • 1 Comment

Four district councils have unveiled proposals to share services, in a move that could see the councils ceasing to employ any of their own staff.

Cheltenham BC, Cotswold DC, Forest of Dean DC, and West Oxfordshire DC are planning to set up a jointly owned company to provide services for all four councils.

A report outlining the proposal said there would be “four independent councils determining their own policies, priorities and decisions”, supported by “a small number of expert advisors who commission and monitor services [which would be provided] either from the private and voluntary sectors or from local authority owned service delivery companies”.

It described the plans as “perhaps the most radical joint working approach in local government today”.

If approved, it said, the proposals “could effectively lead to councils that do not directly employ any of their own staff”.

Under the proposals, a small number of expert officers would advise individual councils on policy development, financial strategy and budgets. These experts could either be “bespoke to a council” or shared with other authorities.

The councils aim to save a combined £5.5m per year under the plans.

All four authorities already share a number of back-office functions, including finance, human resources and payroll departments. Under the new proposals, each authority could choose which of its services to run through the shared company and which to keep in-house.

There is also scope for other local authorities outside of the four to buy into parts of, or all of, the cost-cutting project.

Councils have emphasised, however, that they would retain their political independence, with their own elected councillors.

Pension arrangements for new staff are likely to change but those for existing employees will remain. Meanwhile, pay and rewards could be based on the organisation’s success or failure in relation to targets.

Barry Norton (Con), leader of West Oxfordshire DC, told LGC: “Government funds for local councils are diminishing rather than increasing, and this is one way of bridging that gap. This is the route we want to go down and develop.”

However Paul Hodgkinson, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group on Cotswold DC, said: “I’m not saying it won’t work or that it can’t work. I’m just concerned that in the endless quest for cutting costs, the bottom line of being an effective council and responding to local residents gets forgotten about.

“Once you start outsourcing more and more things the scrutiny of those services becomes more difficult.”

The four district councils were awarded a £500,000 grant from government in April as part of the Transformation Challenge Award. The money will be used to draw up more detailed proposals.

The proposals will be considered at each of the four councils’ cabinet meetings over the next four weeks.

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • Roger

    “Once you start outsourcing more and more things the scrutiny of those services becomes more difficult.” The opposition leader has it spot on. Just because it's a wholly owned company, doesn't mean that these councils will have any more control over their performance in specific service areas. The sop to elected members is always the same, you will set the policy and you will be able to scrutinise. The policy is always open to interpretation and will almost certainly be undermined by clever wording in the contract between the 'company' and the councils. Scrutiny appears to have little, or no effective on the performance of a service area when it is being delivered in house, let alone outsourced.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.