A multi-layered patchwork of sharing arrangements that cross county boundaries, leap over neighbours, and eat up whole regions has been revealed by an interactive map published this week by the Local Government Association.
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According to the map, produced by the group’s shared services productivity workstream, there are now hundreds of shared service arrangements in varying states of readiness, including 132 that are already operational.
Based on the projected savings figures provided by regional improvement and efficiency partnerships, all available in the map and spreadsheet, these arrangements will save the public sector £240m a year.
The data they have gathered shows that joint working on revenues and benefits is the most well-established area of work, with 32 such partnerships listed.
Other popular areas for collaboration are legal services (27 partnerships), building control and regulatory services (23), chief executives or management teams (25) and procurement (21).
As Essex CC and Brentwood BC chief executive Joanna Killian pointsout, these figures reveal a preponderance of joint working in back-office areas. There are more than double the number of examples of back- office sharing than there are examples of front-office sharing, depending on your definition of back and front office, of course.
The data backs up what has long been understood anecdotally: districts are dominating this agenda. There are 92 examples of districts sharing with other districts, and 56 of districts sharing with counties or unitary authorities, but the number of single- or upper-tier authorities sharing with each other is only (33).
Use the map to zoom in on the south-east and this is borne out by the relative lack of colour in London and the unitary corridor that runs west through Berkshire.
Shared service champions such as Ms Killian and thinktanks such as the New Local Government Network argue this needs to change because it is in the big councils, and in front-line services, where the big savings can be found.
The ‘singletons’ now know where their counterparts are who are leading the field, and only have to pick up the phone to find out how they did it.
With 15 separate layers, the map shows the many different types of sharing taking place in local government - from the well-established back-office delivery of revenues and benefits to the rarer, but growing, front-office join-ups in areas such as children’s services.
As well as giving an excellent bird’s-eye view of who is doing what, where and with whom, the map allows users to drill down into the detail of each individual sharing arrangement.
Click on a council and a pop-up box shows the authorities involved and the type of work they are undertaking together. The map shows whether the partnerships are already operational or still in development and gives an outline of the financial savings that have been made and are expected to be made.
There are also links to where further details are available online and, in the spirit of creating an increasingly self-supporting local government sector, there are both officer contact and member contact details so that local authorities can learn from each other.