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Tri-borough leaders rule out combined authority move

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Leaders of two of the three councils in the west London ‘tri-borough’ have ruled out a formal combined authority, following a review of the partnership.

In an interview with LGC, Stephen Cowan (Lab), leader of Hammersmith & Fulham LBC, said a combined authority had been popular in 2010 when the tri-borough was formed but was no longer on the table.

“There’s no appetite for it,” he said. “There was back then, but currently there is no appetite for creating a combined authority … as it takes away from the residents of the borough [the ability] to affect the services they want.”

The tri-borough report, commissioned by Hammersmith & Fulham’s Labour administration shortly after it took power in May, was carried out by Labour peer Lord Adonis, Professor Tony Travers from the London School of Economics, Deborah Lincoln, senior vice-president at Warner Bros, and cabinet member for finance Max Schmid (Lab).

It called for each of the boroughs - Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea RBC and Westminster City Council - to have a separate chief executive.

On the day of the report’s publication, Cllr Cowan announced the appointment of Nigel Pallace as the council’s interim chief executive. Mr Pallace will hold the post alongside his other role as executive director of transport and technical services.

Cllr Cowan said the chief executive post would be advertised while a review “to strip out layers of management” took place.

He said he had held talks with three other councils about sharing back-office systems, and some services could be shared between “not just the tri-borough but all London councils”.

The report acknowledged the tri-borough arrangement had “delivered benefits” but added it lacked “a cohesive vision for the future”.

Westminster leader Philippa Roe (Con) said she had held discussions with Conservative-controlled boroughs about joining one of the existing shared services.

Asked about a combined authority, she said: “What makes the tri-borough successful is that each council retains its sovereignty and is able to tailor services.”

For more details of the tri-borough review, see LGCplus.com/5076178.article

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