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Taking the 'local' out of local government?
CRUCIAL council services in the county could be moved to Staffordshire and Shropshire under controversial plans to make more cuts.
Services such as fostering and adoption are at risk of being shunted more than 50 miles away as part of a plan to save money.
Bosses at County Hall have agreed to team up with Shropshire Council and Staffordshire County Council to consider “common ideas” for cutbacks.
The Worcester News can reveal how five areas have already been looked at for savings, including: faster broadband, fostering and adoption, education services, IT and procurement, such as buying stationery.
Staffordshire County Council’s main base is 52 miles away at County Hall in Stafford, while Shropshire Council’s Shrewsbury headquarters is 53 miles away.
The Conservative cabinet at County Hall says this is just the “start” of the process.
The move has been labelled “disgraceful” by critics, who say they will oppose job losses.
Councillor Peter McDonald, leader of the opposition Labour group, said: “The only way you can really save money is by getting rid of people.
“We were elected to provide the best possible services for the people of Worcestershire, not to negate that responsibility and do deals with other councils.
"This is the end of local government as we know it. We’ve had enough cuts, it’s disgraceful.”
Councillor Alan Amos, a Labour backbencher, said: “This is a slippery slope – it’s outrageous, these places are miles away.”
Councillor Tom Wells, from the Liberal Democrats, said: “Many politicians know the price of everything but the value of nothing.”
Talks started between the leaders and chief executives of all three councils last year, and they have now agreed to meet every three months.
In between that time specialist staff will explore ways of saving money based on sharing services, as well as “reducing structural costs”.
For several years the county council has pioneered shared services with small district councils such as the Worcester-based HUB, which deals with public calls, and the benefits department.
But this is the first time bosses have announced a tie-up with larger shire authorities, or gone outside of Worcestershire.
The council is already looking to cut £90 million from spending by 2015, and wants to lose 857 posts, of which 300 have gone already.
Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader, said: “We’ve got a history of sharing services with the districts but if we want to save more, we need to expand our range of partners to outside the county.
“I don’t think people mind who delivers a service, as long as it’s to a high standard.
“And I would not rule out looking beyond these two partners either.
“This will protect frontline services.”