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Taxpayers quids in as mergers pay off
MORE than £1.2 million of taxpayers’ cash has been saved by Worcester City Council merging services with other authorities.
The council has reduced the shared services budget 25 per cent to a record low net spend of £3.6 million.
The city shares areas like IT, building control, the revenues and benefits department and the Worcestershire Hub with other councils.
The county council also has a stake in some services, with all the authorities working on shedding costs by effectively merging each department. The city council’s savings were debated during a meeting of the performance management and budget scrutiny committee (PMBS). Julie Slatter, who heads up shared services at the Guildhall, said: “There are no smoke and mirrors here, these are genuine savings we have delivered.
“It’s got to be welcomed because it hasn’t always proved the case universally – I’ve seen examples where other councils have shared services, workers have been co-located but the savings have not been realised. That’s not the case here.”
But she also warned that the city council has handed over some control on services by agreeing the mergers. “In return for the economies of scale we’ve lost a degree of control over budgets, and our partners are in very different places in terms of what savings they need to make over future years,” she said.
“More discussions need to be had about future expenditure.” The city council has already outlined plans to cut £1.2 million from spending over the next two years, but still needs to identify another £250,000 of cuts in 2014-15.That includes 26 job losses.
Since shared services launched in 2007 more and more areas are managed across districts, including museum provision and health and safety in restaurants and takeaways. It has proved so popular district councils in Worcester, Malvern, Wychavon, Bromsgrove and Redditch are all involved in at least one shared service.