Hello PPMA Members and friends

I followed the Local Government Association Conference last week on twitter. One is of course dependent on those who tweet to get a flavour of the debate and the mood at the event. My impression was of a local government community who are taking pride in what they have achieved to date, are concerned about the future and the extent to which services can be protected in the face of growing demand and further budget reductions and uncertain about what the future holds. The stormy weather that passed through the Midlands on Thursday was certainly symbolic. If people were looking for a ray of sunshine, then I am not sure that Eric Pickles was the man to provide it. He did say though that he was a fan of local government and supported the view that the sector had responded well to date to the challenge of reducing costs. Having said that, he also pressed local government to do more to achieve the efficiencies needed through shared procurement, incentivisation and joint-working. If we were to follow the example of the Tri-Borough Partnership there is, he suggests, a prize of about £2bn through sharing.

There was a statistic quoted that there are over 200 examples of sharing services in local government, which does counter the argument that  sharing is too hard to achieve. Terry Huggins, the current President of Solace, was also on stage, with the Leaders of South Holland and Breckland, to talk about their experiences of sharing a Chief Executive. Sharing is clearly taking place successfully in many places. I wonder though how many of the 200 examples are small scale? If shared services are to make the significant contribution to the spending reductions that we have to make, in local government and elsewhere and achieve what we are all striving for, which is the protection of services, then more sharing on the scale of the Tri-Boroughs must take place. To date sharing on that scale has proved difficult to get off the ground and there are many examples of shared services arrangements which have started with big ambitions, but not delivered.

I intuitively feel that sharing must be the way forward, for HR as much other services. We must find a way to make it work. We must really explore where we really need to be different from our neighbouring Councils and how we can join up with other public service organisations. To understand the opportunities and barriers we need to unpick the experiences, both good and bad, of those who have taken forward shared service projects. The PPMA intends to contribute to the debate by holding a round-table discussion entitled “The Unspoken Truth About Shared Services”

With a number of “warts and all” presentations from organisations sharing services, the event should be of interest to people in HR and outside, in local government and beyond. If you want to find out more, or attend please contact [email protected]

In the meantime, if you have views on the achievability of large-scale sharing and the issues we need to address if it is to happen, please leave a comment here.

Martin