Whitehall ‘must seek local government help’ on shared services

The Cabinet Office must seek lessons from local government to ensure its plans for sharing back office services achieve value for money, according to the National Audit Office.

In 2012, the government published a strategy aimed at saving between £400 million and £600 million per year by creating shared service centres covering finance, human resources and procurement services.

But a report by the NAO this week said that the government needs to improve its management information to show the programme is properly tracked and recorded.

The report said: “The Cabinet Office has not sought to learn from the experiences of local government.

“Although it acknowledges that better collaboration between local and central government could expand the use of shared services, the Cabinet Office has not looked at this as a way of increasing the limited shared service expertise within central government.”

In 2012, the Committee of Public Accounts released a report which said it was disappointed in how the Cabinet Office had previously engaged with its recommendations, including one to consult with local government.

The NAO report said: “As stated in the Committee’s 2012 report, central government could learn from local government shared services initiatives.

“Wider collaboration between local and central government could also be a way of expanding the use of shared services. It would also allow the limited expertise in shared services to be shared more widely across government.”

Although the Cabinet Office has made progress, the NAO considers that only two of the seven recommendations have been implemented in full and five are still in the process of being implemented.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “The Cabinet Office has made progress with its shared services strategy.

“However, as the initiative enters its most challenging phase, it is crucial that the Cabinet Office fully address previous recommendations by the Public Accounts Committee. In particular, lessons from intelligent customers should be shared, and the department should prepare and communicate performance benchmarks.”

He said this could help ease a tension between getting departments to join the centres on time and maintaining a standard operating model acceptable to all users.

Colin Marrs

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Subscribe to our newsletter