Magazine article Public Finance

Scepticism on Shared Services' Benefits

Magazine article Public Finance

Scepticism on Shared Services' Benefits

Article excerpt

Scottish local authorities' progress towards common services and procurement is likely to be at the expense of Scottish suppliers, a management expert has warned.

Richard Kerley, professor of management at Edinburgh's Queen Margaret University, told Public Finance that he expected councils to continue to drive down costs by tightening terms and conditions for staff and pooling purchasing power. 'However, the other side of doing that is that the procurement will go to English, German or French businesses once you get into the bulk purchasing territory, because the big suppliers are by and large in the larger centres of population,' he said.

Kerley was also sceptical about how far the push for shared services could go: ? think there's going to be continuing progress towards better purchasing, but I suspect that there will be a backlash because the [change management] systems we have are not very well geared towards human services activities, which is a lot of what councils do.

When you come to sharing human services it's tough to get collaboration between more than two possible partners. It is predictably a road to rammy [rows] and ruin,' he said.

He condemned the 'naïve optimism' behind the drive to merge social care and health provision: 'If you think the neurosurgeon or cardiac surgeon, who carries the real weight in health services, is in the least interested in whether your granny gets dressed in the morning, you're mistaken. What they're interested in is acute services.'

In a wide-ranging interview ahead of May's Scottish council elections, Kerley also argued that the tight internal discipline enforced by the Scottish National Party since it took office was stifling creativity at local government level. …

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