Mayor: Collaboration plan could save millions

Stuart Drummond
Stuart Drummond

MAYOR Stuart Drummond has called for collaboration plans aimed at saving neighbouring councils millions of pounds to be “flexible”.

Hartlepool Borough Council and Darlington Borough Council are currently working on detailed business plans which could see local authorities joining some services.

As previously reported, the potential coming together would involve the councils sharing services across children’s, corporate and environmental services and other areas.

It is thought that potential savings would be somewhere between £5m and £8m, but any real savings would not be made until 2013-14.

Hartlepool’s cabinet committee met on Monday to discuss the ongoing programme.

Mayor Stuart Drummond said the business model needed to be flexible enough to allow one authority to pull out of a particular aspect if it does not work for them. Mayor Drummond said: “Flexibility is a key part of this. People change, policies change and Governments change.

“We need to make sure that we always get the best.”

Both councils need to save millions of pounds due to national budget cuts with Hartlepool needing to slash £15m over the next three years.

Cabinet members from both councils have been meeting and Mayor Drummond has previously called the sessions “positive”.

It was initially agreed by the cabinet to explore collaboration work between Hartlepool and Darlington councils but it always had the potential to include other local authorities and work has also been carried out with Redcar & Cleveland Council.

A report to the meeting outlined the key features of collaboration:

• Each local authority will retain its individual identity and sovereignty with clear accountability;

• Collaboration must deliver demonstrable additional benefits to working separately.

The cost of the business case is estimated to be around £75,000, which is being covered by funding received from the Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnership.

It was also agreed at cabinet to refer the draft collaboration strategy to the scrutiny co-ordinating committee for their views.

Labour councillor Marjorie James, chair of the scrutiny co-ordinating committee, said she was aware that there had been meetings between Hartlepool and Darlington in particular and said it was important that scrutiny was involved in the process.

Hartlepool and Darlington are already sharing some roles including HR and children’s services.