Oxfordshire County Council is to explore the option of joining forces with the pioneering Hampshire public service partnership 'H3', as an alternative to outsourcing its finance and HR functions by 2015.
The county had previously been planning to outsource the services, before being approached by Hampshire County Council to join its partnership with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and Hampshire Constabulary combining their finance; HR; occupational health and wellbeing; procurement; and print services. The H3 service - aimed at delivering combined savings of up to £4m a year, and claimed to be the first of its type in England - was officially launched last month, and is equally governed by the three bodies. The H3 members are using Deloitte as a strategic advisor, though the firm is not a service delivery partner.
Yesterday, Oxfordshire Cabinet voted to suspend a procurement process for outsourcing of finance and human resources back-office services and a separate joint venture or partnership proposal to cover schools improvement and support services.
Instead, the council backed a move to commission the development of a full business case for the alternative strategy of joining the Hampshire H3 partnership for the back office services, and creating a new partnership with Hampshire for the education services.
A spokesperson for Oxfordshire told UKAuthority.com today the contents of the business case will be used by the council to decide whether or not to resume or drop completely its moves towards outsourcing. Whichever path is taken, the council intends to have new arrangements in place by the end of 2015, the spokesperson said.
In a statement, Oxfordshire deputy leader Rodney Rose said: "There appear to be a number of advantages to linking up with Hampshire, not least that such a public to public partnership would lead to more seamless transitions. However we need to make certain that the business case stacks up, and we have asked for that to be undertaken."
Any partnership move would build on a smaller ICT partnership already signed by the two county councils back in 2012, centred on an SAP system that both councils use for their human resources and finances. Under the arrangements, Hampshire replaced a private contractor supporting Oxfordshire's SAP system, in a move aimed at saving Oxfordshire £3m over years and generating shared capacity for Hampshire county council.
A statement at the time said the agreement would facilitate further collaborations including the supply or sharing of services from each other.
Pictured: County Hall, Oxford, the headquarters of Oxfordshire County Council.
by Steven Haslington/Geograph.org.uk/Creative Commons.
Oxfordshire Cabinet, 15 April, Item 8: http://mycouncil.oxfordshire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=4032
From UKA, March 2012 - Counties go ahead with IT partnership: http://www.ukauthority.com/tabid/64/Default.aspx?id=3574