Nowadays local authorities achieve more and more in partnership with others. Crawley Council is no exception. Part of this change has been brought about by a worthy government agenda promoting shared services to improve delivery to customers and to make efficiency savings. For example,Crawley has partnered with Horsham Council to provide building control services and with Mid Sussex Council on health and safety and emergency planning. Despite this, it is possible that government has overestimated the economies that might be achieved because there are some practical considerations around delivering shared services.
One of these factors is what we might call sovereignty. If one council teamed up with another council authority with a different local and political culture, how could that impact the delivery of a service? Who would be controlling it? Could the different traditions of several local authorities and their electors be reconciled? These issues are not insoluble but they do exist.
Another consideration is around what each local authority in a partnership is perceived to be gaining from it. As an enthusiast for exploring shared services, I take a pragmatic view on this believing that any council should be able to opt in to a shared service proposal from any other partner. This implies a gradual rollout of new shared services with each potentially producing different splits of net income for the participants. We can win more with some shared services than we can with others. Taking the long view, it is rather like regularly dining out with a group of friends. There will be a lot of enjoyable evenings, any one of which could be marred if the arithmetic gets too precise at the end of the meal.
Beyond shared services we work with the other seven councils inWest Sussexon a range of subjects. One of the most important is the LAA (Local Area Agreement) which is a contract agreed between central and local government over the period 2008-11. The building of this vision was lead by West Sussex County Council with a wide range of partners including Crawley Council. As a result of this, we have commitments to meet a broad spread of targets. These are aimed to support themes such as education and training; community safety, health and social care; transport, housing, the economy, the environment and quality of life.
More locally, Crawley Council plays a prominent role in Crawley Together, our Local Strategic Partnership. This body, with more than 100 affiliates, aims to delivery our Sustainable Community Strategy for Crawley 2008-12. Within this strategy we have a further group ofCrawleytargets, similar in concept to the West Sussex LAA, but with a local emphasis.
All of the above gives just a snapshot of the council’s involvement in partnership working. We put ourselves within and at the centre of many networks addressing the issues of the day whether it is the economy, housing or healthcare. Ultimately this is the way to achieve more for Crawley.
Councillor Bob Lanzer, Leader of Crawley Borough Council
24th November 2008