The Private Companies are Helping Public Bodies Cope With the Boom in Service Sharing

Their findings are quite extraordinary with the respondents revealing a step change in the public sector’s attitudes and intentions towards the sharing of services. The overall conclusion of the survey is that ” a shared services approach will not suit every case. But where it does, those authorities exploiting shared services can reap significant rewards.”The report cites one example of the City of Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham councils who are planning to save up to £3.1m over three years by merging their education services by the end of this year.As John Tizzard, a director at the Centre for Public Service Partnerships points out in his foreword: “The dominant stimulant to consider and develop shared services undoubtedly is the bleak prospects for public expenditure. The Chancellor has made it clear that the current Coalition Government intends to cut public expenditure over the next four years and few commentators expect significant if any growth in the next spending review period. Faced with these financial pressures, and for some local authorities the level of reduction being imposed is in excess of 40% over the next three to four years, shared services is a seriously attractive option.”The major conclusion arrived at by the poll is that there has been a step change in service sharing plans since the last survey in 2008 and that the future for shared services also looks bright. “Of the 150 senior managers we interviewed 65% say their authority is considering sharing back office functions, or plan to share further back office functions in the next twelve months and a staggering 89% in the next two years.”Of course, all this means that advisors and other key participants in the service sharing process are working flat out to help local authorities ( as well as police forces, Primary Care Trusts etc ) to implement their plans. These include a whole raft of professional firms like Browne Jacobson who specialise in the legal aspects of such arrangements and private contractors who advise on and install networks that can be shared by more than one public sector organisation.Where the lawyers might raise legitimate issues about different user groups being able to view other groups’ traffic, the telecoms specialists will provide appropriate solutions in the form of Virtual Private Networks. In this regard, the technology of choice for the latest shared public sector managed wireless networks is MPLS ( Multi Protocol Label Switching ) which until recently was only practically available to the large telephone operators.