Midlands councils announce 'largest' service sharing

Councils in the West Midlands are to work together to find ways of working to share money.

Staffordshire and Worcester County Councils and Shropshire Council will work together in areas such as residential care, fostering and the outlook for economic growth.

A spokesman said the partnership was the largest in the country in terms of population and area.

Analysis

Essentially this is nothing new.

Many local authorities are going down this route since the coalition government announced cuts to their budgets.

They're all in the same position - trying to keep the range and quality of services they provide, but with less money.

This is admittedly a larger partnership than others, but given that these councils share many similarities, in particular, they're all Conservative - and pretty stable at that - this alliance makes sense. The first question is what will be the implications for staff?

I'm told there will be none. According to Shropshire Council leader Keith Barrow, this is a no-cost low-risk strategy.

Just because staff might be sharing workloads and expertise doesn't mean you'll need less of them. Even the Lib Dem opposition leader Nigel Hartin has welcomed the news, albeit with an air of trepidation, saying "the devil will be in the detail".

The partnership was announced at the Local Government Conference.

A spokesman said existing schemes such as "transformation programmes" for broadband and transport would be shared between staff and hopefully lead to improvements.

Council staff will explore ways of looking for improvements, savings and growth.

Phillip Atkins, Staffordshire County Council leader, said "It's about exploring ways to make savings in the back office, for example in the way we buy goods or services, that protect the front-line services local people rely on."

The three councils say that together they spend more than £725m a year.

Combining their buying power, they say, would help drive down the costs of goods and services they buy and give residents greater value for money.

Shropshire Council leader Keith Barrow said they had to "think differently" and that working together would see a better outcome for people.

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