27 March 2017
Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster have today (27 March 2017) reluctantly agreed to serve notice on Hammersmith & Fulham of their intention to withdraw from service sharing arrangements in the areas of Adult Social Care, Children’s Services and Public Health.
The move follows the gradual emergence of a Hammersmith & Fulham plan to set up an in-house ‘people’s’ department that, once established, would take over and deliver these key services to Hammersmith & Fulham residents alone.
“We had no wish to withdraw from sharing arrangements with Hammersmith & Fulham,” said Royal Borough Leader, Cllr Nick Paget-Brown. “But these are vital services to vulnerable people. As knowledge of Hammersmith and Fulham’s plan grew, staff were becoming more and more anxious about their futures and that of the critically important services they work so hard to provide.
“These services need certainty and stability in order to be reliable and effective. We have taken this action in order to restore that certainty and stability.”
The formal severance notice means that by 1 April 2018 Hammersmith & Fulham will be going it alone when it comes to Adult Social Care, Children’s Services and Public Health.
Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster have already made it plain they intend to continue sharing these services on a bi-borough basis.
And Kensington and Chelsea will now seek reassurance in relation to what remains of the tri-borough arrangement and also in relation to services it still shares with Hammersmith & Fulham alone, most notably waste and recycling.
On the question of just why Hammersmith & Fulham was planning to withdraw from elements of the service-sharing arrangement, Cllr Paget-Brown said: “With local government now in its eighth year of austerity, the partnership created between Hammersmith & Fulham, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea in 2011 is perhaps the key reason why residents in our part of west London have been spared the deeper cuts witnessed elsewhere.
“By planning to end tri-borough Adult Social Care, Public Health and Children’s Services H&F will be imposing additional costs on its partners and on itself. While that cost cannot yet be fully determined it is likely to be in the millions.
“What is so puzzling about its actions is that our shared Children's Services department is nationally recognized as outstanding and our shared Adult Social Care services have demonstrably stood up better to the national crisis in social care than those in in most other places.
“Of course partnership places some limits on operational freedom and that can be frustrating, but the savings we have made through sharing have helped preserve vital services to our most vulnerable residents. To our mind, this far outweighs the inconveniences and minor partisan frustrations of sharing services.
“We will now press Hammersmith & Fulham to work with us to preserve what remains of service sharing and to ensure that the unstitching of adults, children’s and public health does as little harm as possible to the people who rely on our services.”
In 2011 the three boroughs announced Britain’s first ever major service sharing agreement. Dubbed tri-borough, the agreement was by 2016-17 saving each council in the region of £13 million a year in management and back office costs.