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Keywords: shared services, finance shared services, local government, National Audit Office, NAO, shared services operations
Susie West | News | 11 May 2012
Shared services operations could be expanding on a local government level, proving greater success than central government has so far achieved, it has been suggested.
Some local councils are utilising shared services so well that their work could help to show larger organisations where they can pick up best practices.
One such local government is Hampshire County Council, which is involved in a number of shared services with local authorities.
It is now crossing county boundaries through a partnership with Oxfordshire County Council, Guardian Government Computing reported. It will support Oxfordshire's SAP system, saving the council an estimated £1m over the next three years.
Describing the benefits of shared services, Chief Information Officer at Hampshire County Council Jos Creese told the news provider that these intra-local government arrangements allow councils to operate in a "very transparent and semi-commercial way".
They can jointly set out clear pricing structures and deliverables, he explained, and provide greater flexibility, removing the need for service level agreements.
However, while this works on a local level, Mr Creese suggested that central government has different challenges, which could be among the reasons why shared services have not been well-received.
Indeed, last month a report from the National Audit Office claimed that government shared services are not delivering the value for money they had expected. It concluded that the investments made to create the facilities outweighed the savings being generated.
Mr Creese added: "The challenge perhaps for central government departments is that some are very large indeed and probably the model in the past is one where the very big do it to the smaller using whatever mechanisms they have in place. That is a little different from what we're trying to do in Hampshire."
Other concerns raised by central government that could be hindering take-up of shared services regard data handling and VAT revenue.
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