Hammersmith & Fulham Council is to leave the Tri-borough shared services partnership with neightbouring Westminster City Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea as a result of rising political tensions.
In a joint statement, Westminster City Council and Kensington and Chelsea Council implied that they were effectively kicking out Hammersmith & Fulham Council after it made alternative in-house arrangements without consulting its other partners in the agreement, placing in jeopardy some shared-services arrangements.
In a statement, Westminster City Council leader Nickie Aiken placed the blame firmly on Hammersmith & Fulham. She said: "Both the leader of Kensington and Chelsea and I feel we are unable to continue with Tri-borough when we have a partner that we do not believe is as committed to it as we are and [who] appears to be making their own plans to leave, without any formal discussions.
"We can't have that uncertainty for staff and these vital services which is why, with much regret, we have taken the very reluctant decision to terminate the joint arrangements for children's services, adult social care and public health."
However, Stephen Cowan, the leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, blamed a "lack of transparency" in the arrangement and "built-in conflicts of interest". He claimed that the arrangement hadn't generated significant savings, as promised, and that it had ended up costing the Council more due to a particular botched contract.
"In our last two budgets, Hammersmith & Fulham Council found £31m in savings but the ‘Tri-borough' contributed no more than £200,000 of that, less than one per cent," said Cowan.
He continued: "Problems with ‘tri-borough' contracts, procured by Westminster City Council, have cost Hammersmith & Fulham over £5m, including the botched contract for special needs transport that put our disabled children at risk."
He also claimed that the support for one borough to keep Charing Cross Hospital open was causing tension with Kensington and Chelsea's support for closing it.
TechMarketView principal analyst, Dale Peters, suggested that the move was ultimately the result of political tensions between the three councils, especially following the May 2014 local elections that led to a change of leadership at Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
"With shared service arrangements, there is always a risk that what seems like a good idea at the time will end in disillusionment," he commented.
He continued: "First and foremost, each council needs to keep its own residents happy and this naturally leads to differing priorities and speed of implementation.
"Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea plan to continue sharing services, but we await details of what this means for BT's and other suppliers' contracts within the Tri-borough partnership."
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