Cambridgeshire councils aim to share more services

07:26 Friday 3rd July 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: For some councils in Cambridgeshire. sharing could be a £1.1 million saving. The neighbouring councils in South Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire and Cambridge City are planning to join together some of their services in an effort to save money. Joining me now are not one, but all three of the council Leaders in question, so let’s see how well they do at sharing the airwaves. First of all we’ve got Jason Ablewhite, Executive Leader of Huntingdonshire District Council. Morning Jason.
JASON ABLEWHITE: Good morning. How are you?
DOTTY MCLEOD: Very good thank you. Ray Manning, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council. Hello Ray.
RAY MANNING: Hello there.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And Lewis Herbert, who is the Leader of Cambridge City Council. Hello Lewis.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So we will start with Jason this morning. Tell us which services you’re looking at sharing.

JASON ABLEWHITE: Well Dotty I think this is a new era of collaboration and innovation for all of these three councils. And we’re looking at many of our back office functions that the public probably don’t see, but are absolutely vital for what we do – things like legal services, building control, ICT which is a big big number for all three of us, you know, the computers and everything else that work all our systems. We can come together. We can collaborate. We can break down those political boundaries, because let’s face it, we’ve got two big Conservative authorities surrounding a Labour authority in Cambridge City. But we’ve broken down those boundaries for the good of our residents.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK. Ray Manning from South Cambridgeshire District Council, why hasn’t this happened before? Because the need to save money has been really pressing for about five years now.
RAY MANNING: It’s one of the things that everybody’s says we ought to be doing, and then somehow you never get round to doing it. Yes it’s blindingly obvious I think. It’s not just about saving money either. It’s also about .. they use the word resilience. It means that if we’ve got somebody off sick, then we borrow somebody from one of the neighbouring authorities. Or better still, it means that we can employ more people in specialist areas, rather than having consultants in.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And your staff will be happy with that, will they, being farmed out maybe to Huntingdonshire or to Cambridge to help fill in sickness?
RAY MANNING: Well I think we’ve got a mountain to climb. Obviously South Cambs is by far and away the best of the three, but I’m sure that there’ll be people who will dispute that.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And Lewis Herbert from Cambridge City Council, a £1.1 million saving is being touted on this. Is that a £1.1 million saving each, or collectively?
LEWIS HERBERT: Well it’s between the three of us. It isn’t all the shared services that we’re working on. Cambridge alone has to save we estimate £6 million by 2020, plus we’ve got pressures from growth, older population, need to help particular people in the community who need our help the most. So it’s part of the way, but there are much wider discussions that will go on. More services to share, more links with the County Council, the public will say well this is the logical way of doing it. And it also gives a clear security of employment to our staff, because this is a commitment to councils delivering, but delivering more efficiently.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So suppose Cambridge City Council is going to be saving from this £350,000 odd, in terms of the Council budget, that’s not actually a huge amount of money, is it?
LEWIS HERBERT: Well it isn’t the only savings. These are three-way services, and we’re working with Jason’s Huntingdon on CCTV. We’re working with Ray’s South Cambridgeshire on shared waste and recycling. We’ll get major benefits from running waste and recycling between the two councils. So it’s part of the answer. It isn’t all the answer. Effectively all of our three councils will be more efficient right across the board over the next few years.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And just returning to Jason Ablewhite, Huntingdonshire District Council, going full circle, any concerns about this Jason? Any worries?
JASON ABLEWHITE: No there aren’t any worries. I think as Ray said a little while ago, it absolutely makes sense to do this. It’s putting the residents at the very heart of all of our decisions that we’re making, and making sure that with ever-decreasing budgets over the coming years, that we are still able to provide those vital services for our residents.If we can do this through innovation, through working together, let’s face it, the £1.1 million is only the start. There’s a lot of potential with other services that we can be looking at. And we clearly said that there is nothing off the table. So this is a start, and I think it will work really well.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Are there going to be job losses?
JASON ABLEWHITE: Are there going to be job losses? Well let’s wait and see. At the moment I think all three of us never want to pay out redundancy pay. This is taxpayers’ money. There are other ways you can do it. There’s natural drop-off. people leave, people retire. And where we can do that and reorganise our departments as we go along, then that’s a lot better way to do it.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Lewis, can you rule out job losses?
LEWIS HERBERT: Well our staff are our most precious resource. The way that we’ll run things will reduce. We’ll have one head of planning, we’ll have one head of building control. There will be job reductions, but there are vacancies in the different authorities, and we will make these reductions with the minimum amount of redundancies.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And Ray, presumably the same goes at South Cambridgeshire District Council. Some people are going to lose their jobs as a result of this.
RAY MANNING: I think you should look at it from the other perspective. The alternative is you start going out to privatising, and then in that case you’re talking about major job losses. So, like Lewis, we’re running with several vacancies in all our departments while this is being sorted out. We would hope there were no compulsory redundancies. There weren’t when we shared our waste services.