Sharing the way local authorities provide their services to the public is rapidly becoming the common approach in the current age of austerity. Local authorities have no option but to deliver their services with reduced resources. When authorities work together this leads to an obvious way of increasing efficiency and value for money by removing unnecessary overheads and duplication in whatever service we are looking to deliver. A successful shared service programme can deliver both cashable and non-cashable efficiency gains. This can lead to a win-win situation as combining existing expertise and experience can also raise standards and the quality of service delivery as we look to do more with less.
Generally when the term shared service is used in the public sector it is to describe a public/public sharing of service across two or more authorities either jointly or where one partner delivers on behalf of the others. Within this broad definition of sharing though there is a whole spectrum of collaboration from informal sharing of expertise through to fully integrated service delivery. Shared services should be seen as a means to an end, not an end in itself and in each service area it will be important to evaluate the benefits and the extent of collaboration that makes sense for that service and each organisation, including a political evaluation.
To ensure shared services are successful the key area to address is the culture of the organisations coming together and the people who work within them. Without dealing with the people issues shared services will not work. Skills are needed to ensure that the new ways of working are fully understood by all concerned. For example, if it is proposed to create a true shared service then it is essential to ensure that it is integrated and is not dominated by one partner to the detriment of the other.
The benefits of shared services are generally understood. What is less tangible and available is the experience and lessons learned in achieving the goal of delivering shared services and realising those benefits. If you are looking at options in the area of Planning, Environmental Health, Licensing and Building Control, ValueAdding can offer expertise in all these areas; providing advice from direct experience of some of the dos and donts to ensure your objectives are achieved. This can range from assisting in producing a business case to creating a shared service to advising and mentoring those getting involved in the process. Options can be identified to produce a range of savings relative to the quality of service to be provided – a gold, silver, bronze approach.