Uttlesford and Harlow district councils to debate formation of new shared services partnership

THE formation of a shared service partnership which has the potential to save Harlow and Uttlesford Council taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds a year has moved a step closer.

THE formation of a shared service partnership which has the potential to save Harlow and Uttlesford council taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds a year has moved a step closer.

Both Harlow and Uttlesford District Councils are recommending that in principle a joint partnership for the administration of Council Tax, Business Rates and Benefits is entered into.

The item will be discussed at Uttlesford’s full council meeting on October 19 and Harlow full council meeting on November 4.

A copy of the report for Uttlesford council’s meeting has been published and can be viewed at uttlesford.gov.uk. Harlow council’s report will be published on October 27 when its full council agenda is distributed.

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Both councils have been working together to explore a joint shared service partnership. A feasibility study was commissioned in the summer to identify costs and benefits (including savings) of the councils working in such a partnership. Staff from both councils have been involved in the feasibility study.

The feasibility study identifies the potential for the councils to save around �635,000 a year (Harlow �390,000, Uttlesford �245,000). These are indicative costs with further work being necessary to confirm the achievability of such savings and the cost of implementation.

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If both councils agree reports the creation of a revenues and benefits services partnership will be taken forward by a joint committee of Harlow and Uttlesford councillors. On the basis of a two year transition period, full savings and changes would be in place by April 1, 2013.

Councils across the country are exploring new ways of providing services in light of anticipated Government public spending reductions over the next four years. The Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review is announced on October 20.

Leader of Uttlesford District Council, Cllr Jim Ketteridge, said: “We look forward to working with Harlow on this project which will deliver financial benefits to both councils.

“Every public body faces significant challenges over the next few years and this partnership forms one strand of the medium term financial strategy that Uttlesford District Council has developed to meet those challenges.

“Council tax enquiries and housing and council tax benefits will still be accessed via Uttlesford Council offices – only the administration of benefits will take place in Harlow.”

Leader of Harlow Council, Cllr Andrew Johnson, said: “In the current financial climate and the continuing focus on providing value for money Councils across the country are exploring different ways to provide services.

“We have recently warned people about how bad the financial situation is and we are developing a plan for dealing with the financial challenges we will face. Looking at opportunities to work with neighbouring Councils to share services is part of that plan.

“Entering into such a partnership could save hundreds of thousands of pounds a year whilst maintaining at least the same standard of service performance. If the partnership goes ahead residents would still access Council Tax and Benefits services in Harlow.”

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