Residents positive about combined council services
Tuesday April 24, 2012
Moves to save taxpayers’ cash and improve council services by combining them across three local authority areas have been overwhelmingly backed by residents.
73% of west London residents, who were asked whether they backed the sharing of some council services between Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F), Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and Westminster, said they support the integration in a recent poll of 1,500 people.
The results of the ‘Tri-borough’ survey, which were released today (April 24), also reveal that nearly four in five (79%) of residents are satisfied with the way their council is running the area, up from 77% at the start of 2011.
The news comes as the legal agreements that formally create the combined departments in major areas - such as Adult’s, Children’s and Libraries services - were signed. The arrangements are expected to deliver savings to taxpayers of around £40million a year by 2015/16.
Much of the saving comes from stripping out duplicated senior and middle management posts. 50% of management jobs have been shed in the Tri-borough departments - dramatically reducing the overheads incurred in delivering services.
Under the plans each of the three councils retains its identity, decision making powers and local councillors. Each council continues to set its own budget and policies.
Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, H&F Council Leader, said: “The Tri-borough vision is to combine management roles and cut overheads so that front-line services are protected as much as possible. Our management wage bill has been reduced dramatically and many services have improved which is reflected in these positive residents’ survey results.”
In addition to the savings achieved from streamlining the number of management roles the Tri-borough plan promises to deliver additional back office savings as the greater buying power enables outsourced contracts, for services such as cleaning, buildings maintenance and IT, to be bought it at a lower cost. For example, the economies of scale delivered by the joint procurement of facilities management is expected to lead to annual savings of £2million a year by 2014/15.
Cllr Philippa Roe, Westminster Council Leader, said: “The Tri-borough shared service is bringing tangible improvements to people’s lives across central London; from wider access to libraries to the extension of Family Recovery across the three boroughs which will enable up to 2,500 troubled families to benefit from focused help over the next three years. This innovative way of working has protected frontline services whilst delivering considerable savings.”
Other services that have been combined include a shared youth service which is making it faster and simpler for young people and their families to get back on their feet.
The councils are also sharing foster placements across the three boroughs, avoiding the additional cost of having to use independent fostering agency placements.
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Leader Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell said: “Providing services for families and children is a vital part of what councils do and is always a challenging task, particularly so when money is tight. By working together and sharing management we will reduce our costs and get the best value for our money and we will maintain consistently high standards of services for our children and families.”
The survey was carried out among 1,500 residents, aged 16 and over, interviewed by telephone between 12 January and 14 February, 2012.