Views are being sought on proposals Cherwell District Council hopes will generate multi-million savings to protect council services.
The proposal is for a confederation model and joint working with Stratford-on-Avon District Council and South Northamptonshire District Council.
On Monday Cherwell councillors agreed to pursue the possibility of saving money through joint working and through the creation of a confederation model which would provide the potential to trade and/or work with additional partners.
Stratford members also agreed to pursue the joint working option on Monday and yesterday (Wednesday) SNC agreed to explore both scenarios.
Councillor Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell, said: “Local authorities are facing difficult financial challenges in the future as we manage the reality of decreased funding and an increased demand for service delivery. It is important we do all we can to retain frontline services which are important to residents and in order to do so, we need to look at new ways to remain financially solvent once the Government’s Revenue Support Grant begins to decrease.
“In 2011 we introduced a shared management team across Cherwell District and South Northamptonshire Councils and since then we have continued to share services, where practical, across the two authorities. To date, this work has saved over £3 million annually.
“The next step for us is to consider whether there are benefits in having a partnership between the three councils (CDC, SNC and SDC) and, for the first time, we are looking into the possibility of a confederation approach to service delivery. There are numerous ways this confederation model can be structured but in doing so we will effectively be able to create organisations which, under the ownership of the council, will be able to trade and work with other organisations offering increased opportunities to generate income. The combination of reduced expenditure through joint working and the potential provision of services to others should help to ensure a financially sound future where we are able to maintain high quality public services.”
The Government’s Revenue Support Grant is a key source of funding for local councils’ service provision. Over the last five years the amount received has significantly reduced and will continue to do so in the coming years. Without finding ways to reduce running costs Cherwell will be faced with the inevitability of cutting services and jobs.
In the draft business case presented to all three councils, the option for shared services is expected to generate savings of £8.9 million for Cherwell; £4.8 million for South Northamptonshire and £5.1 million for Stratford over a ten year period starting in 2015/ 2016.
If the confederation model is pursued, it could generate savings of £12.2 million for Cherwell; £7.1 million for South Northamptonshire and £7.8 million for Stratford over the same period.
The proposals will now be subject to a public consultation and the feedback will be consolidated and included within a final business case which will be put to each council to vote upon next year.
For the authorities who approve one or both of the scenarios, services will then be reviewed on a case by case basis to determine if there is scope for sharing services or a confederation model. The decision will not affect the governance of each authority, who will continue to operate as separate sovereign entities.
Cllr Wood said: “We are at the very early stages of this process and at the moment we are only agreeing to look at these options more closely. Staff are being kept fully up-to-date with the progress and will receive thorough consultation if we proceed with the proposals.”
The consultation will run until February 6, 2015. To participate, visit http://tiny.cc/jointworkingproposals