Outsourcing, cooperatives - councils are re-thinking service delivery

September 23, 2010 5:41 PM

As councils look for savings, some radical approaches are being taken. Not content with salami-slicing budgets, a few local authorities are looking to completely change how they deliver services. Take Suffolk council, for example: today we learn that they plan to outsource nearly all of their services. Instead of being a service provider, they want to be a service 'enabler'. Libraries, youth clubs, highway services, independent living centres, careers advice, children's centres, registrars, country parks and a records office are all up for early consideration, according to reports in the Guardian. The Times suggests that the council aim to cut their budget by 30 per cent over the next four years.

If the private sector, community and volunteer groups and charities take up the slack, the potential job losses could be mitigated by a boost in employment in these roles in Suffolk.

Of course, Barnet council have notoriously floated the idea of an 'Easy Council', providing essential services and charging for extras. Lambeth council are currently in consultation with a view to setting up a cooperative council, where interested parties can take over the delivery of many of the council's services. Council tax has doubled in the last ten years and this has not been met with a concomitant doubling in the quality of services provided. Take the unpopular switch to fortnightly bin collections for example. Government, both central and local, is too big and expensive and as believers in localism, we welcome some fresh thinking on how councils
can deliver their services at better value-for-money for taxpayers.

As councils look for savings, some radical approaches are being taken. Not content with salami-slicing budgets, a few local authorities are looking to completely change how they deliver services. Take Suffolk council, for example: today we learn that they plan to outsource nearly all of their services. Instead of being a service provider, they want to be a service 'enabler'. Libraries, youth clubs, highway services, independent living centres, careers advice, children's centres, registrars, country parks and a records office are all up for early consideration, according to reports in the Guardian. The Times suggests that the council aim to cut their budget by 30 per cent over the next four years.

If the private sector, community and volunteer groups and charities take up the slack, the potential job losses could be mitigated by a boost in employment in these roles in Suffolk.

Of course, Barnet council have notoriously floated the idea of an 'Easy Council', providing essential services and charging for extras. Lambeth council are currently in consultation with a view to setting up a cooperative council, where interested parties can take over the delivery of many of the council's services. Council tax has doubled in the last ten years and this has not been met with a concomitant doubling in the quality of services provided. Take the unpopular switch to fortnightly bin collections for example. Government, both central and local, is too big and expensive and as believers in localism, we welcome some fresh thinking on how councils
can deliver their services at better value-for-money for taxpayers.

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