Tri-borough councils on course to save £40 million

18 June 2012

A progress report published Monday 19 June reveals that Hammersmith & Fulham, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster City Council are on track to save £40 million a year by 2015/16 by combining services and management costs.

This is helping to keep council tax bills in three areas amongst the lowest in Britain, while protecting front line services.

The Tri-borough councils are sharing £300 million of services and, in doing so, cutting management costs in half with 175 senior posts going.

The 'One year on' progress report reveals how 62 senior and middle management posts have already gone in the three areas that have been initially combined: Children's Services, Adult Social Care and Libraries, equivalent to a 45 per cent reduction in senior and middle management.

Combined environmental services between the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham has resulted in seven management posts being lost. The two authorities now share a chief executive. Later this month the Tri-borough councils will share their learning and experiences with other local authorities at a conference at Kensington Town Hall.

This financial year £7.7 million of savings will be made across the three authorities. The eventual £40 million-a-year total savings shared between the three authorities represents around 7.3 per cent of Hammersmith & Fulham's total net budget expenditure.

Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell, the Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said "It is up to other councils to decide whether combining services makes sense. Many have already gone down this route. We stand ready to share our learning and experience to help others make ends meet."

Cllr Nicholas Botterill, the new Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, said: "A year ago our plans were seen as radical, now they are seen as commonsense. Sharing costs, overheads and expertise is not only bringing down the cost of delivering services it is leading to better and more effective services."

Cllr Botterill pointed to the fact that library users can now borrow books in any of the three areas. The councils are also pioneering work to support 1720 troubled families. With every £1 spent on troubled families, £2.10 is saved for the taxpayer in avoided costs. The programme is helping families to turn around their lives, assisting them in repairing complex family issues while also supporting them into employment, education or training.

The `One year on' report reveals how the plans are supporting the transfer of power locally. Employee mutuals have been launched in areas around support for schools, youth services and ICT support services. People with longer-term care needs are being offered personal budgets, ward budgets are being extended in two of the boroughs, while Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham are piloting neighbourhood budgets in Queens Park (Westminster) and White City (Hammersmith & Fulham).

A sovereignty guarantee signed by the three councils ensures local accountability and decision making, with each individual council responsible for their own budgets, policies and service specification.

Cllr Philippa Roe, Leader of Westminster City Council, said: "Sharing services is not just about reducing cost, important as that is in this age of austerity, it is about improving lives and innovation."

The first Tri-borough joint campaign `Summer in the City' offered summer activities across the three authorities. The programme is being repeated this year and will be launched at a youth engagement event taking place at Chelsea FC next Saturday (June 23) called "The Big Shout".

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, said: "The success of the Tri-borough approach is testament to the innovation and forward thinking of Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea.

"Its councillors and officers are my London 2012 heroes for making such creative savings to protect frontline services, all while keeping council tax bills down helping families and pensioner with their cost of living.

"No council should even contemplate cutting services before they have considered following this example of how to join forces with neighbours to share back office services, procure better, slash in-house management and cut overhead costs. Potentially £2 billion of taxpayers' money could be saved if other councils were able to copy such sensible savings across the country."

To read the report, 'One year on' go to www.rbkc.gov.uk/triborough