A major independent review into the £300 million tri-borough councils in west London was announced today (July 24).
Lord Andrew Adonis, Gordon Brown’s former transport secretary, is spearheading the probe into the shared council services model in operation between Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster since 2011.
The enquiry could influence thinking on other shared services models across the UK, with Lord Adonis chairing the Critical Friends Board alongside Professor Tony Travers, local government specialist at the London School of Economics and Deb Lincoln, senior vice president at Warner Bros.
Together, the board will test the quality and effectiveness of the shared services and the potential to widen the arrangements beyond the three current local authorities .
Lord Adonis said: “These are tough financial times for local authorities and it is right that we look for ways to modernise services, improve outcomes and get better value for money.
"The tri-borough arrangements are innovative but it is right that, after more than two years of operation, there is an independent review. I hope that we will be able to compare and contrast with other effective organisations and offer some useful insights and proposed ways forward.”
The review will explore the quality and efficiency of the shared service delivery and look at areas which could be shared with other public bodies and organisations outside the tri-borough arrangement.
It will also look at current restructuring arrangements to see if there are better ways of working and also the scope and effectiveness of political mechanisms under the system now in place.
The tri-borough system now shares back office and management across a number of services and other services are combined on a bi-borough basis between Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham.
As it was announced Hammersmith and Fulham faces a budget gap of £24.4 million in 2015/16, rising to £65.3m by 2018/19, the council leader, Stephen Cowan said: “It is essential for councils to be more creative in the ways we look to improve services and deliver savings but the record budget gap that we have been left to deal with makes this essential. This means being even more ambitious about the way we seek to reform out-dated council services.
“I am delighted Lord Adonis has agreed to chair the Critical Friends Board and with Professor Tony Travers and Deb Lincoln there is no doubt that we are extremely lucky to have a board that is made up of people who enjoy such huge amounts of respect across government.”
The report is expected to be published in September this year.