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Council investigates partnership working

Published Monday, 07 February 2011

Members of Wellingborough Council’s resources committee will meet next week to talk about the next stage in exploring partnering with other organisations to provide council services.

The committee meets on 9 February and councillors will discuss a project brief that explains what's involved in partnership working and outsourcing, and how to make sure it's an efficient and cost saving way to provide back office services such as HR, finance and ICT.

Councillors previously agreed that a project brief should be drawn up to look at the outsourcing process, after initial investigations showed a significant level of interest from potential partners. The brief explains that the next stage in the lengthy project is to work out if it's feasible and cost effective to outsource services, and says that savings of at least 5% must be identified in any agreement. Councillors will be asked to approve the brief so that a project team can be assembled and a tendering exercise can be looked at.

The council has recently been identifying extensive cost savings in order to balance its budget after the government announced it would be cutting their grant by £1.4m for the next financial year. The following year, from April 2012 to March 2013, the council expects a further reduction of £600,000, and is looking at outsourcing as one way to make these further savings.

Cllr Paul Bell, deputy leader of the council, said: "No definite decisions have been made yet; we are simply looking at what's involved and recommending that we move to the next stage. Outsourcing or partnering is a long and complicated process, and we are aware that we must follow that process carefully to ensure the best value for money and highest level of service possible. When we get much further down the line we can assess potential savings and potential risks, and I guarantee that if the tendering exercise doesn't result in a partner that can provide a cost effective, and most importantly, credible solution, no contract will be awarded.

"Partnership working does have many advantages. It can save us money, and we have to explore every option to do that during our current financial challenges, but it also offers the chance to develop new, innovative ways of working and gives us access to specialist expertise. By working with partners to deliver behind-the-scenes services, we can potentially make some savings without the public noticing an impact. But this is still a very early stage in the process, and we have a lot more work to do before any decisions are made.

"I'm not expecting that partnership working will result in any further job losses."