Merge big Depts with East, West and Midlothian Councils

Before unitary authorities were created by the Tory Government in 1996 and the Regional Councils abolished, services such as roads maintenance and education were provided on a region-wide basis. It was far more cost-effective. Other scottish Councils deliver services by co-operating with neighbouring Councils- why not Edinburgh? True, it would cut the number of bureaucrats at Council HQ, but it would allow the cash saved to be spent on front-line services. Edinburgh spends half of its £1Bn revenue budget on education. It could significantly cut admin costs if it co-operated with East, West or Midlothian Councils.

Jean McFadden said in her paper of 1996: "The Structure and Functions of Local Government under a Scottish Parliament" that

"It is interesting to read what the Wheatley Commission members said, in 1969, of single-tier local government. They believed it to be unworkable: Different levels of administration seem to be required for large-scale services on the one hand and for local services on the other. In order to create all-purpose authorities an attempt has to be made to find a level that satisfactorily meets the needs of both types of service. Such a level is simply not to be found in Scotland. (Wheatley para. 677)."

She goes onto say:

"All of this points to the desirability of a two-tier system of local government, at least in some parts of Scotland, if services are to be delivered effectively, efficiently and accountably."
If we go down the road of joint boards..  "There have been squabbles as to which council should be the lead authority and which should provide the convener of the board."

She then says: "I believe that there must be at least a partial reorganisation of local government once the Scottish Parliament is established."

This has never happened.

Why the contribution is important

Back in 2009, it looked like the Scottish Government might take over running all schools- saving everybody even more dosh ( Because if Councils like Edinburgh can't work with other Councils to deliver services, it may just be that Holyrood does it instead.

by roseburn32 on November 24, 2015 at 06:55PM

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Based on : 10 votes


  • Posted by AbiHal November 25, 2015 at 11:24

    Or you could merge 'back office' departments, like finance, HR, and that would help get breadth and depth of skills.
  • Posted by roseburn32 November 25, 2015 at 22:29

    I should have added that my idea would not involve sacking staff. By cutting back office posts, we can redeploy workers into front line services, or transfer them to other Lothian Councils to fill vacancies as they arise, in a redeployment pool, as part of a merging deal. We could also rent out the resulting empty floors at Council HQ (there are many empty desks there right now- and space is currently rented to Business Gateway Edinburgh and in the past to the green Bank).
  • Posted by roseburn32 December 01, 2015 at 22:07

    In 2010, the Scottish Liberals said to me: they weren't convined about joint Boards, but supported shared services, the pooling of costs and joint administration.

    More recently, there has been real change: East Ayrshire and South Ayrshire councils have jointly launched the Ayrshire Roads Alliance to deliver a range of roads services.
    These include roads maintenance, winter maintenance, design and infrastructure, traffic and transportation, and road safety.
    The councils expect the shared services arrangement to deliver more than £8 million in savings over the next ten years.
    The savings will be mainly from reduced management and administrative costs and from better deals on larger orders.
    (see p31 of "An overview of local government in Scotland 2015" by Audit Scotland at http://www.audit-scotland.g[…]cal_government_overview.pdf )
  • Posted by roseburn32 December 01, 2015 at 22:35

    From “Responding to the challenge: alternative delivery models in local government” at[…]/Alternative-Delivery-Models-LG.pdf
    "Some councils such as the Greater Manchester councils and the West Midlands councils have long standing agreements for co-operating on transport and the economy. Recently, we have seen a move by other councils towards joint commissioning of transport and economic regeneration services.

    For example, in 2013 councils in Merseyside released their proposal for a new authority to boost economic development and take over the transport functions of the existing Mersey travel agency. The South Yorkshire councils also agreed to establish a combined authority which will have responsibility for transport, economic development and regeneration.

    As well as reducing costs, the benefits of working this way include joined up policies covering a wider area. The concerns are a perceived loss of control over policy, and that the arrangement does not always work well where the political administrations are not aligned.

    Our work indicates that, despite the benefit of these changes, many believe that the move to a joint management will disempower councils and they will lose control over management. This view, whether right or wrong, has restricted the number of joint management teams we have seen. We note that there are no joint management teams covering a whole county area.

    Joint service provision across Worcestershire
    There are six districts within Worcester: Bromsgrove; Redditch; Wyre Forest; Worcester; Wychavon; and Malvern Hills. The district councils, together with Worcestershire County Council, have been involved for several years in joint commissioning and sharing of services.
    The main arrangements include the Worcestershire regulatory shared service joint committee which provides licensing, registration, street trading and trading standards. This service is hosted by Bromsgrove District Council and covers all six districts together with the county council. Bromsgrove also hosts the North Worcestershire building control shared service, offering professional advice to people carrying out building work. These are both ten year contracts. Wyre Forest District Council hosts the North Worcestershire economic development and regeneration shared service, the North Worcestershire water management shared service and the North Worcestershire emergency planning and business continuity service.
    In addition to the above, Wyre Forest Community Housing Group delivers the homelessness advice service under contract for Wyre Forest District Council and is located at the hub in order to provide a joined up service to customers.

    Significant levels of savings are anticipated for all councils from these arrangements."
  • Posted by roseburn32 December 06, 2015 at 11:38

    Back in 2010, the former chairman of the Accounts Commission, Alastair McNish, put out a call to merge Scottish education authorities , so classrooms would be spared the worst of the cuts in public spending. Each Council spends around 40% of its budget on education, so merging such departments with neighbouring Councils reduces duplication. Just reducing from the current 32 to 12 would save hundreds of millions of pounds, but could weaken citizens' direct control of them through the ballot box. Implementing such a proposal would leave the current 32 Councils intact, but would involve joint management arrangements of a centralised education back-office function. []

    Kids not suits has used Scottish Government data to calculate that if the merger meant going back to LEAs based on the old regional councils, ie pre-1996, it would save Scotland £500M pa. (Kids not Suits is a parents' campaigning group trying to keep early years class sizes small and trying to ensure back-room costs, duplication and demands don't hinder teachers' ability to do the job.)
  • Posted by roseburn32 December 06, 2015 at 11:40

    The SG published their Report on the Future Delivery of Public Services by the Commission chaired by Dr Campbell Christie on 29 June 2011. “Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services” . He said in his foreword ( ) “our whole system of public services - public, third and private sectors - must become more efficient by reducing duplication and sharing services wherever possible.
    Experience tells us that all institutions and structures resist change, especially radical change. However, the scale of the challenges ahead is such that a comprehensive public service reform process must now be initiated, involving all stakeholders.

    He concluded:
    “Ultimate responsibility for reform rests, however, with the Scottish Government. I urge them to act quickly and decisively - as a society we no longer have time for delay.”
  • Posted by roseburn32 December 06, 2015 at 12:07

    However, Care must be taken to ensure that big Council's don't end up subsidising smaller ones.
    For 5 years Stirling and Clackmannanshire Councils have been sharing services.
    But in September, Stirling Council’s administration announced that it was planning to pull the plug on the shared education and social work services. They claim that at a time of financial stringency, Stirling’s council tax payers are “needlessly” pouring £400,000 into the Wee County. (Ernst & Young provided the figures)
    The proposal was to run Clackmannanshire schools from Stirling council, and Stirling social work services from Clackmannanshire. Stirling has a joint Lab/Tory administration whilst Clackmannanshire is SNP.

    Stirling Council leader Johanna Boyd denied the move was politically motivated and said there were no plans to pull out of any other areas of shared working between the councils, some of which were “examples of good practice”.[…]-bombshell-stirling-6499339
  • Posted by roseburn32 December 06, 2015 at 12:17

    May 2015 saw a briefing paper to Paliament that said shared services are being used by a majority of councils in England
    (see[…]NsdgsGZUqNu4zVkWAOEGmrxjT2w )

    But not in Scotland. Why can't Edinburgh Council take the lead on this?
  • Posted by roseburn32 December 06, 2015 at 12:28

    Merger Costs

    As with everything involving public bodies, significant new costs can arise if officers decide they want to get new premises, new staff, new equipment etc to set up the new “Shared Service”. Creative Scotland (as was The Scottish Arts Council) and Police Scotland are examples. Four mergers creating Scotland-wide bodies were examined by Audit Scotland in 2014 . Clearly, merger costs will need to be tightly controlled if savings are to be made. See[…]/nr_120614_public_body_mergers.pdf

  • Posted by roseburn32 December 06, 2015 at 12:40

    Why such little progress?

    In 2013 the Scottish Parliament Local Government and Regeneration Committee found that well-intended efforts to pursue public service reform (PSR) are not yet delivering the scale, nature or rate of change that is needed. The reasons why not are well covered here:[…]/lgr-13-09w.pdf
  • Posted by peopletalk December 08, 2015 at 14:41

    I thing this is a great idea... I do beleive some services still need to be managed locally however things like Council Tax, HR services where the demand is very similar should be brought together.
  • Posted by roseburn32 December 16, 2015 at 14:12

    The full Council meeting on Thurs 10th Dec 2015 approved joint working with neighbouring authorities on Roads. Seems like this has been in the pipeline for a few months.
    Accountability is key when it comes to merged services. The paper has useful appraisals of the different forms of joint management arrangements that might work: see Appendix 1[…]s_borders_and_fife_councils
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