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Service plan doubted

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One of the most senior civil servants working on local government efficiency has conceded that shared services may not result in huge savings.

The comments by Paul Downie, deputy director of the Department for Communities & Local Government’s local strategic partnerships and performance unit, follow suggestions that government interest in shared services has waned.

Mr Downie told last week’s LGC Improvement & Efficiency conference: “The evidence is not yet there that shared services can be a valuable part of the drive for efficiency.”

He did however suggest that shared services would feature in the work of the regional improvement and efficiency partnerships (RIEPs), due to come into being on 1 April.

Chris Wilson, executive director of 4ps, told the conference that councils should prioritise their internal savings first, adding: “You can make more potentially in efficiency savings in-house.”

Mr Downie’s admission received a mixed reaction. London Councils chief executive John O’Brien said: “It is a bit early to tell how effective shared services have been, but while they have a contribution to make, they are not the whole story.”

Local Government Association programme director for improvement and performance Corin Thomson said: “What will work in one area will not necessarily work somewhere else.”

Meanwhile, the government this week unveiled its efficiency prospectus, confirming the allocation of£185m to RIEPs.

While two RIEPs those covering the West Midlands and the south-west are up and running, that for the East Midlands is delayed. Ministers will hold back£1.3m of the East Midlands’ funds for up to six months while partnership strengthening work occurs.

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