Huntingdonshire District Council close to merging some services with neighbouring authorities

Huntingdonshire District Council. Huntingdonshire District Council.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014
7:00 AM

Huntingdonshire District Council is close to entering into a partnership with South Cambridgeshire District Council which will see its IT, building control and legal departments merge.

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Costs could be cut by between 10 and 15 per cent, saving hundreds of thousands of pounds, if HDC shares services with neighbouring authorities.

It will also continue to work closely with Cambridge City Council and take up any opportunities to work together to make savings.

The joint-working approach is necessary, says a report by HDC managing director Jo Lancaster, in the face of continuing cuts to the annual grant provided by the Government and the limited capacity to raise revenue through Council Tax.

The move will inevitably lead to staffing changes and Mrs Lancaster says “extensive consultation” with staff will be essential.

Working on integrating IT systems so the different organisations can work together has been identified as a priority, having been a “significant barrier” to progress on other shared services projects.

IT services for HDC, South Cambs and Cambridge City cost a combined total of £6.1million a year. It is expected that “significant” savings in management and other costs, such as buying systems and licences, can be made by combining the services.

But investment will have to be made before that can happen – none of the authorities has the resources to establish such a service.

Work on combining legal services, which cost about £1.7m across the three organisations, is to continue and a report will be compiled for HDC’s cabinet in the autumn.

Mrs Lancaster’s report says future staff vacancies that arise will be considered for suitability as shared roles. She also says there could be opportunities for joint training, development, secondments and mentoring.

It has been proposed that a project management company will be employed to support the move towards shared services which HDC’s cabinet will be asked to endorse, providing £50,000 towards its cost.

Options for merging building control have been considered in a separate report following work by senior officers from HDC and South Cambs.

HDC leader Cllr Jason Ablewhite said: “There is no doubt that local government is facing its biggest challenge ever as national funding continues to fall dramatically. Working with like-minded neighbours is a real opportunity for us as the alternative is deeper cuts to services. The business case must stack up for sharing services and this marks the start of a process which will see us look at all options thoroughly.”

The report is due to be discussed by HDC’s cabinet on Thursday, July 10.

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