Share Services Scrutiny

I was asked to chair my second member led review. The subject was shared services. The idea being that we share the costs and benefits of back office functions with Northamptonshire. This has been talked about for a number of years and was reaching the point where a decision was imminent.

There has been plenty of scrutiny over the years but much of it was very general and not in any great detail. The model had evolved, over time, and needed to reflect the current economic crisis. In order to make the savings sharing services must translate into job losses. This affect people so when a decision is likely then the process must go forward as quickly as possible so that any uncertainty is kept to a minimum.

This time chairing this member led review would be more complicated as it would involve members not just from Cambridgeshire but also from Northamptonshire. We met a number of times to scrutinise the outline business case and then the detailed business case. We were able to robustly question officers and cabinet members from both County Councils.

I started from a sceptical position concerned that the savings seemed modest compared to the organisational change required to make them. However, over the scrutiny process it felt like the business case stacked up. I am sure that somethings will not happen as expected and additional costs will crop up, they always seem to, but it was evident that further saving above and beyond those highlighted are likely.

Our cross party and cross council member led review made a number of recommendations but were supportive of the initiative. I presented our report at cabinet and was faced with the cabinet response paper that dealt with most of our concerns but not all. Cabinet agreed not to recommend shared services to full council until these concerns had been ironed out between myself, the cabinet member and the relevant officer. I am pleased to say all our recommendations were finally accepted and the report was presented to full council where it was approved.

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