Somerset County Council and Taunton Deane Borough Council have signed a £400m 10-year shared services deal with business services provider IBM.
The three organisations have formed a joint venture company – Southwest One – to supply a range of services including human resources, procurement, finance, facilities management, and IT to the two councils.
Southwest One will be run by staff seconded from both the councils, as well as IBM.
The joint venture will also be open to more than 30 other public sector organisations in the region, which will be able to take advantage of the shared services on offer.
The first could be Avon and Somerset Constabulary, which will make a decision next month on whether to join the Southwest One venture.
Jill Shortland, leader of Somerset County Council, said: “Both councils are in absolute agreement that our partnership with IBM represents excellent value for money, an increase in our pool of skills, and most importantly will result in better outcomes for the people of Somerset.”
However, union officials claim the deal was never fully debated. “This is about public accountability, it’s about public sector jobs and also it’s about public services, and council taxpayers should know where and why this is happening,” an Unison official said.
Analysts claim local government remains one of most active area of opportunity for large outsourcers, with shared services programmes inevitably rising up the agenda.