Councils rubber stamp merger plans

Three West Country councils have become the first in the UK to agree a three-way merger, aimed at making savings across departments including ICT.

The partnership will see Weymouth & Portland Borough Council, North Dorset District Council and West Dorset District Councils share a single workforce and chief executive, a move they say could save £6m by 2020.

Councillors approved the proposals at each authority’s full council meeting held over the last few weeks.

Mike Byatt, chairman of the management committee at Weymouth & Portland Borough Council, said: “The tri-council partnership is great news for residents across the three areas.

“It is innovative and ambitious, and will ensure we are in the best possible position to protect front-line services in the face of reductions to local government funding.”

The councils have already secured £600,000 from the a central government transformation fund for agreeing to share a chief executive, and the councils have bid for an additional £1.5million from the fund’s 2015/16 pot.

The bid document submitted to government estimated costs over two years of merging ICT across the councils at £1.49m, but a report by officers said that more work needs to be done to specify an exact figure for savings.

The report said: “The next stage is to agree the options to be taken forward which will then enable the specifications to be written; only then will it be possible to define timescales, costs and achievable benefits.”

A detailed review will identify areas where harmonisation of existing systems and processes can be achieved.

Across the three councils, according to the business plan, the costs of implementing the changes would include £550,000 in staffing costs, £125,000 for developing a model for communication between councillors and staff, £600,000 for planning and implementing a joint ICT service, £220,000 for professional and technical support for the division of physical assets.

The council says that savings would be achieved through:

  • Improved contract management
  • Aligning and consolidating contracts between the districts and Dorset County Council
  • Converging applications across county/sharing services/cloud based hosting
  • Communications – leveraging technology such as unified communications to access cheaper rates
  • Microsoft holiday

Colin Marrs

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