Councils collaborate to cut care costs

25 November 2009

25 November 2009 | Carly Chynoweth

Local authorities in west London hope to achieve "significant" savings by working together to buy adult social care services.

The West London Alliance (WLA) has just completed the pre-qualification questionnaire stage of tenders for residential care and home care for the six London boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon and Hounslow.

Ian Nichols, director of the WLA, said the arrangement is part of a bigger programme of collaboration between the councils designed to reduce costs and improve the quality of the service offered to the councils' 1.4 million residents. Nichols told SM: "The best way to react to the challenges we will have in the future is by collaborating closely.

There are other examples of London boroughs doing collaborative procurement, but we are going a stage further and looking at how we can collaboratively manage and deliver these services." Currently, one individual council is leading on each contract on behalf of the other alliance members.

However, this may change in the future. "I would expect over time that our activities would be more closely integrated," Nichols said. "It's not just in procurement… we are setting up a joint efficiencies team at the moment to support the procurement process, and others, going forward."

The Department of Health (DoH) announced last week that from October next year local authorities will have, between them, to achieve total efficiency savings of £375 million to help fund free personal care for 280,000 people.

The remaining costs for the scheme's first 18 months, which top £1 million, will be met by the DoH. Centralising spending on research and development, negotiating better deals on advertising contracts and making better use of in-house commercial skills to cut consultancy spend are some of the ways the DoH will meet its share of the cost. The government has not yet announced how the scheme will be funded beyond the initial 18 months.

The news comes as Local Government Chronicle research found that councils are expecting a 10 per cent rise in the number of people meeting existing criteria for home care. Such services currently cost councils an average of £158 per person each week, although this ranges between £69 and £233 at the 70 councils that responded to the magazine's Freedom of Information request.

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