While the Local Government Group’s new compendium covers just England there is plenty going on both west and north of the border.
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In Scotland, a number of projects covering all 32 councils are up and running: Scotland Excel, a centre for public procurement expertise; Customer First, allowing service users to access and pay for services online; myjobscotland.gov.uk, a single recruitment portal for local authorities; tellmescotland.gov.uk, a single public information notice board for planning applications, road closures and licensing applications.
There are also smaller arrangements bubbling such as plans for Stirling Council and Clackmannshire Council to share education and children’s services. Paul Dowie, the Improvement Service’s shared services director, said such arrangements at this operational level, between councils and partners, “often happen quickly and thrive because they are locally initiated and are not defined as ‘shared services’ projects. They are practical solutions to practical problems at local level.”
With the Christie Commission into the future of Scotland’s public services in full swing, the tension between councils sharing with councils and the need to join up with other services has come to the fore.
Mr Dowie said: “There needs to be a clearer direction of travel in Scotland with respect to local integration across the public sector or aggregation within particular parts of the public sector,” he said.
“There is the potential for economies of scale to follow from local integration. For example, a single public service authority including police, community health care and existing council services, could share corporate and back office costs across a broader service base.”
LGC previously covered the shared services work underway in Wales, see map below, and since then the Welsh Local Government Association has issued an update to its own compendium of activity as the Welsh Assembly Government keeps the pressure up on authorities to collaborate.
Projects cover areas such as social services commissioning in south-east Wales, shared legal services in south-west Wales, shared engineering services in central Wales and schools improvement work in north Wales.
Meanwhile, the assembly government has announced its own review of operational delivery which could see the restructuring of education and health provision along regional lines in order to cut costs.