Chorley and South Ribble councils to merge more services - and will eventually combine all of them
Chorley and South Ribble councils are planning to merge all of their back office departments, it has been revealed.
News of the long-term aim emerged as the neighbouring authorities agreed to a more immediate plan to expand the number of services already shared between the two boroughs.
The move brings to five the total number of departments shared between the authorities. The two districts merged their finance and assurance functions more than a decade ago under an arrangement which now saves them more than £500,000 per year.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that there is no firm timetable for the eventual merger of all the councils’ departments. However, the latest agreement has been welcomed by the leaders of both of the Labour-controlled boroughs as offering better value for council taxpayers’ cash.
South Ribble leader Paul Foster said that there was “a clear business case” for sharing more services.
“Not only will it save us a significant amount of money, it will provide more resilience across the two councils – so not only can we continue to offer excellent services, it gives us an opportunity to look at what more we can do for residents.
“This has been supported cross-party at both councils and we are in this for the long haul,” Cllr Foster said.
Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley described South Ribble as “the ideal partner”.
“The continued uncertainty from government when it comes to funding concentrates the mind – and the stars are now aligning so we are in a position where it makes sense to grasp the opportunity and be a trailblazer for transforming services in this way in the North West.
“Ultimately, this is about continuing to provide residents with excellent services and…going above and beyond what would be expected of us as a district council to make Chorley a great place to live and work,” Cllr Bradley added.
The proposal to extend the shared services agreement was first made almost 18 months ago, but progress slowed amid claims by the then Conservative administration at South Ribble that Chorley was not willing to move at their preferred pace. But Cllr Foster suggested at the time that the neighbouring borough had been put off by a chaotic period which saw three changes of leader at South Ribble in as many weeks during autumn 2018.
Meanwhile, a meeting of the councils’ shared services committee last June heard that their separately-outsourced payroll systems did not “facilitate” a sharing of that particular function between the two authorities.