Northants County Council’s shared service partnership to be scrutinised

Michael Clarke
Michael Clarke

Northamptonshire County Council’s shared service partnership with two neighbouring authorities is to come under the microscope.

Local Government Shared Services (LGSS ) provides a large chunk of NCCs services such as payroll, HR, revenue collection, IT and legal services.

Yesterday (July 10) in an unusual move the Conservative councillor responsible for finance Cllr Michael Clarke asked the finance scrutiny committee, which is chaired by opposition Labour councillor Mick Scrimshaw, to have a closer look at how effective LGSS is.

NCC is currently in severe financial difficulty and is making cuts across large parts of the organisation in a bid to save at least £35m this year.

Cllr Clarke said at the cabinet meeting held at One Angel Square: “One area that is troubling the cabinet is the value for money we are receiving from our commitment to LGSS.

“We need to be assured that our current investment in LGSS is bringing savings.

“Unfortunately auditors have not done a best value report on LGSS so we do not have a yard stick to measure it with.”

Last year NCC delegated about £32m of its budget to LGSS and according to the organisation’s website it has a combined delegated budget of £85m from its members.

As well as providing services to Cambridgeshire and Milton Keynes, LGSS supplies services for a number of other councils including Northampton Borough Council and Norwich City Council.

LGSS was heavily criticised in March’s damning Max Caller report which led to Secretary of State for local government James Brokenshire sending in two commissioners to oversee NCC.

In his report Mr Caller said: “LGSS claims to have delivered significant savings over its period of operation but it is very hard to see what additional saving has been produced by the structural grouping and what could have been generated by normal management action.

“Further, much of the reported saving is not more for less but routine service reductions.”

The organisation, which was set up in 2010 by former NCC chief executive Paul Blantern, is now being run by consultant Sarah Homer who is being paid £1,220 a day to oversee matters.

She replaces John Kane who earned more than £150,000 per year and left in February with a £66,000 pay-off.

A joint committee meeting of LGSS members being held at County Hall tomorrow (Thursday) will include reports on the performance of LGSS and also  recruitment agency Opus LGSS which was created and partly run by LGSS.

A paper understood to be about the how the organisation operates is being discussed in private.