Over the last few years, many local councils have worked together to develop an integrated approach to the services they offer. Where possible, shared responsibility has been allowed for teams dealing with similar departmental issues, so that a joined-up approach to shared services has been enabled. These partnerships were developed to support cost-efficiencies, savings and the better utilisation of budgets and resources. But times have changed and both priorities and technologies have changed too. In fact, the fundamental ways in which people approach and carry out their job roles have changed. The benefits of sharing may have diminished or in some cases become obsolete, as organisations look to optimise their own performances.

Shared responsibilities – shared services

Originally, two adjacent, geographically-connected local councils might have created shared services, such as some of their corporate support functions. They were probably set up to drive down costs, but the business world has moved on and the reasons for creating them, such as purchasing power and economies of scale, have changed. Some of these amalgamated ventures may now be becoming quite outdated.

As part of a natural shift in cultural change, it’s now time to look at these partnerships and see if they remain relevant in the current economic climate. What do we need them for, are the reasons they were set up still applicable and are they achieving the intended benefits? Looking at the way councils presently work and the cycles their workloads traverse, in some cases the premise for sharing may have changed. Sometimes, when there is an intention to share staff (for example, in legal services or planning) it doesn’t quite correlate, as most councils operate on the same cycle and have the same peaks and troughs in workloads – and also the same shortages of certain skills at any given time. So, there may not be any time, skill or financial savings to be gained.

Delivering value and quality

Considering a separation of these partnerships should now become the primary matter for local council structures, as John Knight explains:

“15 years ago I worked on what I think at the time was the first council to combine its services into joint teams with another council. Back in 2007, the district council I worked with and its neighbour took the decision to work in what was then a ground-breaking partnership.

“The goal was to create a single, senior officer structure and shared services across the two councils and to deliver savings and efficiencies for both organisations. But times and practices have changed. Priorities and technology may have driven our working methodology in other directions. Now the basis for sharing may have changed and it’s no longer necessarily an advantage to be sharing resources to that extent and being separate may make better economic sense. It shouldn’t be forgotten that there is a management overhead in managing the delivery of these shared arrangements, as well as political and strategic priority considerations that will need constant monitoring”.

Contact our team to see how we can work with you to understand the value you are getting from shared services and to help you establish most effective, collaborative working partnerships for the future.