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District councils in West Sussex to consider sharing services including legal

Three district councils in West Sussex are this month to consider the introduction of shared services in a range of areas including legal services, in move that could save £2m a year.

Arun, Chichester and Horsham District Councils said they were exploring the benefits of sharing their human resources and internal auditing services as well as legal.

Chichester and Arun are also considering sharing revenues and benefits, customer services, and information and communication technology.

The councils said initial findings showed that the partnership could deliver services more efficiently and at a lower cost to residents. It could also make the authorities better able to respond to any project or issue that required additional resources.

“It is believed that this approach will result in offering better value to residents, while creating new opportunities to improve the delivery of services,” the councils said.

The Cabinets at Arun, Chichester and Horsham are to be asked at meetings this month to consider the findings of the initial work on the project and decide whether to give the go-ahead for it to move to the next stage.

This next stage would include:

  • producing detailed plans on how each service would be provided, including management arrangements, costings and location.
  • demonstrating that sharing services is the best and most efficient option when compared to alternative ways of delivering these services.
  • demonstrating how modernisation and the use of digital technology can improve the delivery of these key support services.

A final detailed plan is expected to be ready by the end of the year.

According to a report prepared for Arun’s Cabinet meeting (to be held on 11 July), Horsham led on developing the business case for sharing legal services (as well as internal audit).

The councils estimate that around £2m could potentially be saved across the three authorities each year. Of these savings, some £403,000 is attributable to legal services.

Cllr Ray Dawe, Leader of Horsham District Council, said: “Many councils are already involved in sharing services in some form or other and it makes sense for us to further this process wherever we can. We have identified these particular services as areas where we believe we can maintain existing service levels, increase resilience and save money in these times of significant change in local government. At the same time we shall continue to look at other areas where we can achieve a similar result."

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