Cambridgeshire County Council offer revised shared services organisation understandable by ‘the ordinary man and woman on the street’

Cllr Sebastian Kindersley hopes whatever system is taken forward will be “absolutely crystal clear a

Cllr Sebastian Kindersley hopes whatever system is taken forward will be “absolutely crystal clear and easy to understand and transparent to the ordinary man and woman on the street”. - Credit: Archant

The chief financial officer of Cambridgeshire County Council has said there has been “a lack of transparency” in some aspects of its shared service organisation LGSS and that a planned new arrangement will be “far simpler”.

A report to the council's general purposes committee on November 26 said the council is considering how to change the operating model of LGSS, as the current arrangements have become "unacceptable" for partner organisation Northamptonshire County Council.

LGSS is owned by Cambridgeshire County Council, Northamptonshire County Council and Milton Keynes Council with the purpose of sharing business support services, such as finance, human resources, payroll, procurement, recruitment and more.

The councils are now working on creating a new arrangement for the shared services provider.

At Cambridgeshire's general purposes committee, Cllr Sebastian Kindersley said LGSS has been "plagued by a poor public reputation simply because it is a species of local government body that has never existed before as far as anybody can satisfactorily explain, and it just doesn't appear terribly transparent to members of the public".

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"Whatever we take forward needs to be absolutely crystal clear and easy to understand and transparent to the ordinary man and woman on the street, because we don't want any more of the kind of aspersions being cast about the nature of the organisations," he said.

Addressing the comments, the council's chief financial officer, Chris Malyon, said that "there has been a lack of transparency, that members of the public can follow one cost of expenditure here, to how it actually relates to the accounts of that organisation receiving that service.

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"The lead authority model which we are seeking to implement will be very transparent, it will be far simpler".

He described some of the current arrangements as "extremely complicated" but said all participating authorities had been fully audited.

A Cambridgeshire County Council report says the future operating model will see a "significant increase in costs" for the authority.

Although the report notes "Cambridgeshire has gained more than Northamptonshire from these arrangements over the last eight years".

The current LGSS arrangement has come under criticism in recent years, and according to a council report "the opportunity to 'sell' services to more public sector organisations has become almost impossible and at least one major client, Norwich City Council, has given notice and will terminate their contract on 31st March 2020".

A government report into financial difficulties at Northamptonshire County Council did "suggest that the scope of services within LGSS included service areas where there was no demonstrable evidence that these services benefited from any sharing".

According to a Cambridgeshire County Council report: "It is the view of all the partners that this [the government report] is correct. It would appear that service areas were included within the scope of LGSS simply to increase the financial turnover of the organisation. Many service areas such as Democratic Services, Finance and HR business partners, and operational IT simply support the organisations that they work in. There is no sharing of skills or resources and therefore the only benefit that is derived is through areas of significant procurement - the same outcome of which can be delivered without a shared service offer."

A report has been carried out by The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy to review the operating and financial model of LGSS, which remains confidential and is not yet accessible to the press and public.

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