A deal that sees three London councils jointly run children’s and adults’ social care services will end next year after a row between the authorities.
Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham have run the services in partnership since 2011. The government has frequently praised the ‘Tri-Borough’ as delivering improvements in children’s services, with services in two of the three authorities rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted last year.
But this week Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster councils revealed they will serve formal notice to terminate their agreement with Hammersmith and Fulham. The two councils said they would instead pursue their own partnership as a “bi-borough” from 1 April 2018.
In a statement, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster said the move was a result of Hammersmith and Fulham planning to set up its own in-house arrangements for services without consulting the other two councils.
Westminster’s council leader Nickie Aiken said: “We would not have chosen to end the tri-borough arrangements, which we believe have been a great success. However, we feel we are unable to continue with the tri-borough when we have a partner that we do not believe is committed to it as we are and appears to be making their own plans to leave.”
Nick Paget-Brown, council leader at Kensington and Chelsea, added: “What is so puzzling about Hammersmith and Fulham’s actions is that our shared children’s services department is nationally recognised as outstanding and our shared adult social care services have demonstrably stood up to the national crisis in social care than those in most other places.
“We will now press Hammersmith and Fulham to work with us to preserve what remains of service sharing and ensure that the unstitching of adults, children’s and public health does as little harm as possible to the people who rely on our services.”
Stephen Cowan, leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council, said: “We’ve had concerns for some time about the value of the ‘tri-borough’, its lack of transparency and its built-in conflicts.
“In our last two budgets, we found £31m in savings, but the tri-borough contributed no more than £200,000 of that, less than 1%. Problems with tri-borough contracts, procured by Westminster council, have cost Hammersmith and Fulham over £5m, including the botched contract for special needs transport that put our disabled children at risk.”
He added: “Triggering withdrawal is evidently a long-planned move by the two councils. I look forward to having sensible discussions with them about how we can all move on.”