Two local authorities face annual bills amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds across adults’ and children’s services following the end of ‘tri-borough’ arrangements in West London.
Cabinet reports published by Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea councils examine the impact of proposals for new bi-borough health and social care service-sharing arrangements between the authorities, set to be implemented from April 2018.
The two Conservative councils served notice on tri-borough agreements in March 2017 after accusing their third partner, Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham, of “appearing to make alternative in-house plans” that destabilised the arrangement.
Westminster’s report estimates an annual rise in staffing costs of £733,000 across its adults’ and children’s services departments (£310,000 and £423,000 respectively), along with £74,000 in public health.
The council also faces a potential redundancy bill of £405,000 and implementation costs of more than £400,000 according to the report.
Meanwhile Kensington and Chelsea’s report cited an additional revenue cost of £574,000 a year, along with a redundancy bill of more than £350,000. The council said the former broke down into staffing spends of 348,000 on children’s services, 141,000 on adults’ and 85,000 on public health.
About 330 staff across the two councils are said to be affected in some way by the changes. The cost of moving the two councils’ staff out of Hammersmith and Fulham premises is put at £150,000.
The tri-borough setup is estimated to have saved each member about £14 million a year. A spokesperson from Hammersmith and Fulham council said the dissolution of the partnership would be “cost-neutral” for the authority.
In what the reports call a “significant departure”, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea will establish an integrated commissioning function across adults’ and children’s services and public health to “maximise” value for money.
The new agreement will also see changes to the senior management team delivering adult social care across Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea. The head of service role will switch from tri- to bi-borough.
Part of the adult safeguarding and placements team will also become bi-borough. Yet some aspects of safeguarding – including mental capacity assessments and deprivation of liberty – will remain under existing arrangements, according to the reports, as will the sensory services team and some back-office functions.
“It is likely these will become bi-borough over time, but the given the depth of integration in these areas, time and care will be needed to manage the transition,” the reports said.
Most other adult social care services – including learning disabilities, mental health and care and assessment – have been maintained on a ‘sovereign’ basis by the councils and will see “no changes”, according to the cabinet reports.
Ofsted joint-working praise
Many children’s social work functions, including early help, child protection and services for looked-after children have been kept ‘sovereign’ by the three councils and so should see little change, the reports said.
Yet Ofsted inspection reports from 2016, which rated Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea ‘outstanding’ and Hammersmith and Fulham ‘good’ with ‘outstanding’ elements repeatedly praised the value of partnership areas between the three authorities.
These include a shared multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) and emergency duty team, and joint working around female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual exploitation and gangs.
While Westminster’s report suggested the MASH function would be operated on a sovereign basis, spokespeople from Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea councils confirmed it would in fact continue under existing tri-borough arrangements.
“The MASH has always been shared and will continue to be,” Hammersmith and Fulham council’s spokesperson said.
Kensington and Chelsea council said other joint working protocols “will remain tri-borough”, as will fostering and adoption services.