London councils become the latest to strike a deal on cost saving management measures
The London Boroughs of Brent and Lewisham have become the latest councils to agree on sharing their ICT functions with a deal that will kick in from April of next year.
The cabinets of the two councils have agreed on a partnership in which a new shared service for IT will be run by a lead officer, and overseen by a senior officer from both and a joint committee of two councillors from each authority.
Staff will become employees of Brent, which has indicated that most are already on its payroll with those from Lewisham and its external IT supplier set to transfer. But all staff will be expected to work across both locations.
The budget for the first year of the service has been set at £3.4 million, with each council contributing 50%, and both have forecast that the agreement will help to save £1 million per year each.
Councillor Michael Pavey, Brent's deputy leader, said: "This is an absolutely ground breaking deal. It will save a huge amount of money whilst safeguarding an outstanding service. The government have slashed our funding in half, but through creative work like this we can protect essential services for residents."
Brent said the move will contribute to meeting its target of reducing its spending on IT by £1.62 million a year. It already provides IT services to the Local Government Association.
A spokesperson for the borough told UKAuthority: “That LGA arrangement is working very well for both partners, as well as generating welcome additional income for Brent in an ongoing time of reduced central government funding for frontline services.”
He added that it is open to further joint working with other public sector organisations, but is not currently pursuing any, preferring to focus on the arrangement with Lewisham.
Lewisham said the arrangement will support an upgrade of its infrastructure when its existing contract with Capita expires in April. The new service will cover support for servers, networks and desktops, management, procurement of infrastructure and project management.
The two councils are not neighbours, with Brent in north-west London and Lewisham in the south-east, separated by several miles of congested roads and no direct public transport link. The Brent spokesperson said it would not expect staff to travel between the two within a working day, but will have staff on a rota providing a local presence at both councils.
In addition, “the percentage of tasks that can be done remotely from any location – including even staff homes – is increasing by the day”.
The deal reflects a trend in which London local authorities have been sharing IT functions and other support services. Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham share a framework agreement under the Tri-Borough Authorities deal; Sutton and Kingston have shared a service since 2013; and Islington and Camden are planning to launch a shared service in April of next year.
Image adapted from work by Neurosurgeon23, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons