Sunderland should share council services to weather the cuts, say Tories

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SUNDERLAND City Council has been urged to share services with neighbouring authorities as it deals with further massive funding cuts.

Councillor Robert Oliver, leader of the Conservative group, says sharing services is one way the council could deal with the anticipated £20million trimming of its budget during the next two years.

The council already pools its resources with Gateshead and South Tyneside as part of a waste management agreement and with South Tyneside for insurance.

But Coun Oliver says more could still be done and points to a trio of London councils, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster, which are aiming to save £40million a year by 2014-15, by sharing £300million of services, such libraries and adult social care.

Local authorities in Greater Manchester are also working together, with nine councils establishing a new music education hub.

According to figures from the Local Government Association, the North East has fewer shared services agreements than anywhere in England.

In total, 219 councils have signed up to 143 arrangements, resulting in a total saving of £156.5million.

Coun Oliver said: “Sharing services across local authorities can bring significant financial savings and help soften the blow of the cuts councils are facing.

“There is plenty of scope for North East councils to combine services especially on ICT, procurement and schools services.

“The region is lagging behind other parts of the country where significant savings have been made.

“Small, metropolitan councils are especially suited to sharing services with Sunderland already working with neighbouring councils on waste management.

“Many of the services required by residents are very similar and there is little need for duplication with each council providing a separate but similar service.

“The North East should follow the lead of London councils where “tri-borough” arrangements among neighbouring councils have worked well.”

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