Two neighbouring district councils in North Yorkshire, which pioneered shared services just three years ago, will repatriate a number of those services in a matter of weeks as part of a wider review that could lead to a total split between the two local authorities.
Hambleton District Council says that it will repatriate a number of services within the next few weeks, including customer services and business support, following a decision by the cabinets of both district councils.
The two authorities, located either side of the A1 near Darlington, only agreed to the shared services partnership in 2009, in a project that took up to two years to put in place.
Shared services among local authorities have been vigorously promoted by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles (pictured) as a way for local authorities to cut costs, while maintaining service levels.
The split follows the enforced "gardening leave" of joint chief executive of Hambleton and Richmondshire district councils, Peter Simpson, who was escorted from Hambleton District Council offices in Northallerton in February, according to local press reports. Simpson had been chief executive of Hambleton District Council since October 1996.
Simpson was directly employed by Hambleton and it had been its decision to remove him. The reasons for his removal are unclear. However, Simpson had won plaudits nationwide for his shared services drive with the two local authorities.
"There has been no big fall out between the two authorities – we are simply going to look at new ways of providing services together for the benefit of both sets of residents," said Councillor Neville Huxtable, Leader of Hambleton District Council.
Huxtable implied that there had been major changes in the senior management of Hambleton District Council and, hence, a change of strategic direction.
"Shared services have been a success and it's brought huge savings for both councils at a time when we were facing cuts. But it is now time to look at what is best for our residents. We have a new management team driving Hambleton forward. We are entering a new phase of working together," said Huxtable.
He added: "Maintaining excellent services for our taxpayer is of paramount importance. We have the reputation as one of the most well-financed councils in the country – with one of the lowest council taxes. Now we want to move on and use some of the savings we have accumulated to bring even better services."