Local Authorities Working Together.

Local authorities have common statutory responsibilities, carry out many of the same functions and activities, and face similar challenges. They are also subject to increasing demand from many quarters to improve services and overall performance.

Working together can be a practical and cost-effective way for local authorities to share experience and resources, tackle common tasks, or take advantage of economies of scale. Working together can bring significant benefits that may not always be in the form of cost savings. For example, co-ordinating services, providing affordable access to expertise, strengthening organisational capability, and better alignment of council policies are all valid reasons for local authorities to work together.

Local authorities often enter into a joint arrangement in response to a specific need at a particular time. However, the opportunities for working together are many and varied, so a systematic, criteria-based approach is warranted to guard against wasting scarce resources or pursuing unproductive arrangements. Partnership agreements can serve as the basis for local authorities to work together even where their cultures, working styles, and decision-making processes may be very different.

My report draws on an assessment of a small number of the many joint arrangements between local authorities. The arrangements that were reviewed were generally soundly managed, with agreed objectives, budgets, and systems for monitoring progress and expenditure. Councillors were involved, where appropriate, in governing and/or overseeing a joint arrangement and setting criteria for community outcomes.

Timely, well focused, and soundly managed joint arrangements that have the support of councillors and council staff can deliver significant gains for local authorities and their communities. This report and the accompanying brochure offer guidance as to how local authorities might go about identifying opportunities and preparing proposals for working together. I hope that local authorities find my report a source of useful guidance.

Finally, I would like to thank those local authorities that participated in this audit for the time they took in providing documentation, meeting my auditors, and providing comment on the draft report.


K B Brady
Controller and Auditor-General

17 May 2004

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