Councils plan to share services in new attempt to save money

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TWO councils are set to share an increasing number of services in a bid to save “significant” sums of money and “preserve” jobs.

By next April East Riding Council could be providing payroll facilities for cash-strapped Scarborough Council, as well as processing its benefit claims and providing customer call centre facilities.

The authority – which employs 14,000 staff and has a budget of £738m – compared to Scarborough, which has 800 staff and a budget of around £18m – is looking at taking on more of its services in future, as well as looking at opportunities “to share” services with other councils.

But a suggestion by Labour that it could look at a single
North Bank authority, by a merger with Hull, was rejected by the East Riding council’s deputy leader.

Mike Cockerill, who sits on Scarborough Council’s Cabinet, said using outside bodies to provide services was “nothing new”. The council needs to make more than £7m savings in the next four years to balance its books.

He said: “Obviously in the climate we have been in for years, job losses are always on the cards, but as much as anything this ought to help preserve jobs.

“If someone else is providing a service and they have spare capacity, it does make sense.”

East Riding Council’s Cabinet meets today to discuss a report which says in future services including ICT and joint procurement of new ICT systems could be shared with Scarborough.

Scarborough will continue to provide staff locally for face to face inquiries for people over benefits, but their data will be stored on a separate IT server somewhere in the East Riding, looked after by East Riding staff.

The report backs up the case for sharing services, saying it helps to share innovation, pool scarce specialist expertise and realise economies of scale.

Labour councillor Keith Moore said using the same logic, a single North Bank authority, merging East Riding and Hull Councils -– similar to Humberside County Council – could create “huge savings.”

“I think it is worth consideration. A single North Bank authority would be clearly more efficient,” he said.

However the council’s deputy leader Jonathan Owen said returning to a Humberside model would cause a public outcry.

But he said: “The idea is to share overheads and development costs. It takes the pressure off Scarborough because they are not duplicating services and having to invest in duplicate systems to run those services.

“It will be a similar story with district and borough councils across the country where they are too small to be financially viable to invest in systems for the future. They either have to club together or with larger authorities.”

An East Riding Council spokesman said no job losses were expected and although potential savings have yet to be determined, there should be “savings of some significance”.

If agreed today, officers will carry out “rigorous due diligence” before a final report is considered.

According to the Local Government Association at least 95 per cent of councils are sharing services, resulting in £357m savings.

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