Councils set to team up in hope of saving cash

northumberland Cou- nty Council is in talks with a neighbouring authority about pooling their resources to help save money.

It is looking to share four services with North Tyneside Council, and the two authorities have already agreed on shared objectives for joint working and started making interim arrangements.

The two councils began formal discussions about merging services in October in response to budget pressures and a call from central government for local authorities to consider joining forces.

One option being considered is combining the councils’ fostering teams under one manager – with a view to eventually creating a single fostering team for both councils – and that could be put into practice within three weeks.

The other three sets of departments the councils are considering sharing are those in charge of internal audit and risk management, revenues and benefits, and ICT systems.

Outline business cases for the team mergers will be presented to both councils at the end of the month.

If approved, the three other proposed joint arrangements could be up and running by next March.

County council leader Jeff Reid said: “All local authorities are working in an incredibly tight financial situation, and we have a duty to explore new and innovative ways of working.

“Many authorities are now looking at pooling resources and working on joint projects to help make savings and drive efficiency.

“This plan is about making sure both authorities can provide the best possible value for taxpayers’ money regardless of whether they live in Northumberland or just across the border in North Tyneside.

“We want to look very closely at some of the back-office functions both councils need to keep them running effectively, and then see if we can come together and get better value by working together.

“We will be pulling together detailed business cases for any areas where we might be able to save money and considering very carefully whether efficiencies can be made.”

North Tyneside mayor Linda Arkley added: “As a council, our commitment is to deliver the best services we can for residents at the lowest cost. The sharing of services offers us the opportunity of doing that.

“The discussions with Northumberland County Council are going well and have proved that we have much in common that we can build on.

“The next phase will see formal business cases developed, and these will be fully considered and only taken forward if these are in the best interests of our residents and taxpayers.”