Ealing and Northfield

Shared services – a silver bullet?

Many councils are seeking big savings from the concept of shared services. In London Labour councils Islington and Camden talked about sharing chief executive and senior management teams but this seems to have foundered, see here. They are still talking about sharing a number of services but have so far only agreed on saving £270K from procuring school dinners jointly. Conservative councils Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham are involved in a wide ranging service merger, see here. There is no doubt that such initiatives require a lot of work and are fraught with dangers.

Our council has been noticeably silent on this issue. If you scan the budget document you will see reference to one only one future, undeveloped, shared service proposition in the area of HR.

In Ealing the council’s chief executive is against the idea of sharing services directly, for instance merging identical benefits administration operations all following the same prescriptions from DWP. He does accept that jointly procuring externally provided services is a way forward and the current budget includes an inititative to save £1 million from the procurement of adult placements by doing this jointly with the West London Alliance (of west London councils). This initiative had to be driven forward in the face of officer opposition by the previous Conservatvie leader of the council. Plans to repeat the initiative in the area of childrens’ placements do not seem to be being carried forward with the same zeal.

Labour’s lack of forethought and their inability to come up with a strategy beyond ask officers what to cut and accept their ideas mean that Ealing is being short changed. Rather than hearing how Labour will do things differently all we are hearing is the head-banging insistence that less must mean less.

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