The number of joint management arrangements is likely to triple among districts after the May elections, according to a leading advocate of sharing services.
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The figure highlights the extent of joint working, quantified this week for the first time in an interactive online map created by the Local Government Association.
More than 60 councils are discussing the possibility of merging their senior officer structures, including three lots of trios, according to South Holland DC leader Gary Porter (Con).
With 22 councils already in, or having formally agreed, joint chief executive arrangements, he said there were 61 others in talks. However, Cllr Porter said the pairings were unlikely to make their intentions public until after the elections.
Cllr Porter, the member for the LGA’s work aimed at increasing the amount of joint working among English councils, said there was “a growing appetite” for shared services. With reference to joint management, he said: “On a week-by-week basis there are more and more conversations taking place.”
Cllr Porter’s comments highlight the growth in the sharing of services and management teams. The LGA map shows every shared arrangement in England.
East Cambridgeshire DC, Huntingdonshire DC and Fenland DC have already stated that their three-way talks have been postponed until after the election, and South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse DCs strategic director Matt Prosser told LGC that another trio might emerge in the north-west.
Joint chief executives already in post have cast doubts on whether a trinity is achievable, given the failures in the past, such as that between South Holland DC, Breckland DC and Boston BC.
Adur DC and Worthing BC chief executive Ian Lowrie said a partnership could take on a third party but would create “real complications”. “There are real issues about how many meetings one person can go to,” he said.
It might become necessary to add an extra layer of managers and begin to undo the economies of scale, he added.
One emerging shared service trio is Hammersmith & Fulham LBC, Kensington & Chelsea RBC and Westminster City Council, with the first two set to be led by a single chief executive.
Mr Lowrie said there was no excuse for other authorities in the capital not to follow suit, given their relatively small populations and geographical proximity.
Cllr Porter said the example set by the three west London councils showed that it was possible for unitary councils to join districts in sharing managers.
“You’ve got three London boroughs with three leaders with big egos and if they can bury the sovereignty issue, then what is the argument for others not doing it?”