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War of words after 'innovative' tri-borough partnership between Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster Councils collapses

Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster will now operate a bi-borough partnership after accusing Hammersmith and Fulham of undermining the deal

Council leaders Nick Paget-Brown, Nickie Aiken and Stephen Cowan

The tri-borough partnership between Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and, Westminster Councils, set up with the aim of sharing services and expertise to drive saving and public reforms, has acrimoniously split.

The leaders of Conservative-run Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea say they have no choice but to end the agreement, claiming the Labour-run administration in Hammersmith and Fulham had undermined the partnership, and said it intends to continue running a bi-borough partnership.

Hammersmith and Fulham's leader Cllr Stephen Cowan accused Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea of not pulling their weight, and said plans must now be made to ensure the best deal is struck for residents living in all three boroughs.

The messy unravelling marks the end of the partnership established in 2011 when Hammersmith and Fulham was a Conservative council, and saw service sharing arrangements in the three key areas of adult social care , children’s services and public health.

It will formally end on April 1 2018.

Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster said it was left with no option but to serve notice on the deal after learning Hammersmith and Fulham planned to set up an in-house "people’s" department that, once established, would take over and deliver the key services to its residents alone.

“We had no wish to withdraw from sharing arrangements with Hammersmith and Fulham,” said Kensington and Chelsea borough leader Cllr Nick Paget-Brown.

“But these are vital services to vulnerable people. As knowledge of Hammersmith and Fulham’s plan grew, staff were becoming more and more anxious about their futures and that of the critically important services they work so hard to provide.

“These services need certainty and stability in order to be reliable and effective.

"We have taken this action in order to restore that certainty and stability.”

Westminster pointed to the tri-borough positives, with children’s services nationally recognized as outstanding .

Leader Cllr Nickie Aiken said: “We would not have chosen to end the tri-borough arrangements which we believe have been a great success.

“However, both the leader of Kensington and Chelsea and I feel we are unable to continue with tri-borough when we have a partner that we do not believe is committed to it as we are and appears to be making their own plans to leave, without any formal discussions.

“We can’t have that uncertainty for staff and these vital services which is why, with much regret, we have taken the very reluctant decision to terminate the joint arrangements for children’s services, adult social care and public health."

Cllr Cowan said: “We’ve had concerns for some time about the value of the ‘tri-borough’, its lack of transparency and its built-in conflicts of interest.

“In our last two budgets, Hammersmith & Fulham Council found £31 million in savings but the ‘tri-borough’ contributed no more than £200,000 of that, less than 1%.”

He said "tri-borough" contracts, procured by Westminster had cost his borough more than £5m, and said there was tension surrounded Charing Cross Hospital, accusing the two other councils of supporting its closure.

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