It was revealed over the weekend that the five unitary authorities that make up West Yorkshire - Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield - are to share legal services. It is estimated this will save taxpayers around £1.6 million every year.
This is good news, however, as the leader of the Conservative group on Leeds City Council said, "We shouldn’t stop at legal services, I believe we can also look at joint working in other areas such as human relations, licensing and training services. I welcome this news but it should have been introduced earlier and perhaps could have gone further."
I agree with him. This is a very good start, and I am not going to criticise the leaders of the various councils for making this decision. It is yet another example of areas where significant savings can be made. It proves cutting front-line services is wrong when there is so much waste, and also proves when councils start talking with one another, progress can be made.
In June, it was announced that East Riding of Yorkshire Council and North Lincolnshire Council are looking at ways of sharing services. They are establishing a working group where all possibilities will be considered. This is what all councils across the country should be doing, and it's the logical next step for those councils in West Yorkshire. To assist them further, here are some examples from other councils:
- Merseyside Council leaders are exploring ways of sharing legal and payroll services, and much more.
- South Holland and East Lindsey District Councils have agreed to merge five back-office services.
- Oldham and Rochdale Councils are looking at ways to merge dozens of council services.
So a good start from the West Yorkshire councils, but they must go further. If they do, they will collectively save millions of pounds, which will help to protect front-line services, and reduce the tax burden on residents, as the savings made will be year-on-year savings.
If your local council is looking at ways of merging and sharing services, please get in touch with me. It is important to highlight good practices, as it encourages other councils to do the same.