CHESHIRE West and Chester Council is talking to seven authorities with a view to sharing services in more than 20 different areas.
The move is designed to produce more efficient and cost-effective services and will form part of the council’s plans to mitigate central cuts to local authority funding.
Cheshire West and Chester faces an overall reduction in Government grant funding for 2011/12 of £13m (9.6%) and a further £8.7m (6.5%) in 2012/13.
The Government’s spending power, announced by Whitehall, is reduced by 2.96% assuming council tax is frozen at current levels and the authority has access to about £4m of funding currently allocated to national health.
Councillor Les Ford, executive member finance, said: “These numbers remain consistent with the financial plan being developed by the authority.
“We have strong financial management policies in place and other measures such as the proposed Shared Service Programme which will ensure the future stability of the council and the service it provides to the public.”
The council already operates partnership agreements with four authorities, Cheshire East, Halton Borough, Warrington Borough and Shropshire County Council.
Last year £6.7m was saved by sharing back office services – human resources, information technology and finance – with Cheshire East Council and a recent agreement with Shropshire County Council on highway maintenance is expected to make annual savings of about £300,000- £450,000.
A further ‘one-off’ saving of £200,000 will be made on procurement costs.
An agreement in principle has been reached with Halton Borough Council, with which it shares archives and library support services, to form a Children’s Services partnership with a definite decision expected in the New Year.
Chief executive Steve Robinson said: “The latest proposed agreement with Halton will follow the same principle of pooling resources and expertise to produce a better, more cost-effective service for both authorities.
“It is early days yet and whilst the finite detail will be discussed over the next few months it should be stressed that the policies affecting Children’s Services in Halton and Cheshire West and Chester will, of course, still be decided by members of the respective authorities.”
He added: “The current financial situation means that we have to work with our partners at sub regional and local level to produce the best possible services for our residents. Governing in isolation is no longer possible or indeed acceptable.
“Working in partnership with other local authorities reduces management and overheads costs; improves decision making across local authority boundaries and, of course, increases buying power.”
Cheshire West and Chester Council, which saved more than £35m in its first year and established reserves of £19m-plus, is planning to make changes to the delivery of services across the borough over the next three to five years.
The authority is reviewing the role of Area Partnership Boards to involve the public, private and voluntary sectors with local residents.
The aim is to ensure that services which are delivered are the priority of local communities rather than seeking to meet government performance targets.
“It is hoped that savings already made and the emphasis on shared services and localism will help us mitigate the effect of Governments reductions without any adverse affect on the quality of frontline services,” said Mr Robinson.