Council collaboration a step closer

A MEETING between Hartlepool and Darlington council cabinet members to discuss working together in the future to save millions of pounds was “positive”.

Councillors sitting on Hartlepool Borough Council backed proposals for a detailed business case to be drawn up to make it clear what benefits there would be of the two councils joining some services.

The potential coming together would involve the councils sharing services across children’s and adult social care, education, and other areas.

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond told the Mail both councils are in the same position, having to find a lot of money but at the same time protecting jobs and front-line services.

He said councillors from both authorities met this week where they had the opportunity to become acquainted and could “test the water politically”.

Mayor Drummond said: “The meeting was extremely positive.

“Both were very clear that it needs to be right for both councils and to at least sustain services if not improve them.”

The collaboration comes as Hartlepool council looks to make £15m of savings and Darlington £7.8m, due to national budget cuts.

It is thought that potential savings of the councils sharing some services would be at least £5m, but any real savings would not be made until 2013-14.

Work is already underway on business cases which will look into proposals in much more detail and cabinet members will meet to discuss the partnership again in the new year.

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.

The councils are already sharing some roles including HR and children’s services.

Mayor Drummond said both authorities are clear that they want to keep political autonomy and said services delivered on the ground will also be protected.

He added: “There are no questions of us joining councils.

“We will be looking for some quick wins because savings have to be made, but this would be very easy for either of us to pull out if we feel it isn’t working.”