Local authorities condemn compulsory shared-services concept

Local authority directors have voiced opposition to the government’s announcement that large-scale, shared-services projects between councils will become mandatory.

Angela Waite, president of local authority body, the Society of IT Management, said: “If central government wants to encourage us to join shared-services centres, it would seem to be nonsense to attach a financial penalty as an incentive. I do not think it is necessary to mandate shared services.”

Last month Ian Watmore, head of the prime minister’s delivery unit, said that “it was no longer optional to share” and that local authorities should expect the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review to assume that large-scale shared services were already a reality.

The Office of Government Commerce, which is charged with getting value for money from public spending, also warned last month that councils could not continue to work individually.

But Surrey County Council’s head of IT, John Gladman, said: “I will only support it [shared services] if councils are helped with extra funding to pay for the cost of the change programme to implement it.”

Geoff Connell, deputy head of IT at the London Borough of Newham, said shared services centres had yet to take off because of “political unwillingness to lose local employment” and “because the most advanced authorities can end up carrying the least advanced, accelerating the poor, but holding back the good”.

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