London's shared services spat continues

6 January 2012

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6 January 2012 | Helen Gilbert

Transport for London (TfL) and the Metropolitan Police Service were branded ‘monolithic’ during a London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee meeting yesterday.

The two organisations were the subjects of a scathing attack by Brian Coleman, chairman and leader of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) who expressed “disappointment” with the slow pace of the shared services agenda.

Speaking at the meeting, which examined the mayor’s budget for next year, Coleman described LFEPA as having had “its fingers burnt” several times on shared services and cited occupational therapy and data storage as examples. He described both TfL and the Met police as monolithic and referred to them as “two removable objects”.

“I rather feel sorry for Mr Griffin [the mayor’s budget and performance adviser] because he comes up against those two great monoliths and seems to lose every time,” Coleman said. “I’m generally disappointed in the pace of shared services… in my view, TfL’s view of shared services is it’s a service that TfL runs and others can join in with them if they like but they are not going to surrender one inch of their services to any other functional bodies, so you can do it on TfL’s terms or nobody’s terms.”

But Peter Hendy, transport commissioner, hit back claiming talks of monoliths and a lack of cooperation were “simply not true”. “I’ve got a list in front of me of the sorts of things that we have contributed to. Some of them have produced savings somewhere in the GLA family, but none for us,” he said.

Hendy asserted that there were some limitations due to differing structures and accounting methods in some organisations, but added: “I use the example of procurement with Network Rail in order to demonstrate that we are not hindered by artificial boundaries and with a bit of cooperation and with a bit of sensible management… we can work out to buy some stuff together which will be cheaper for us both [than buying separately]."

The transport commissioner also pointed out that contracts cannot simply be discontinued and said collaboration is needed when contracts are re-let.

Anne McMeel, director of resources at the Met Police, disputed the claims and pointed out both the Metropolitan Police Authority and the Service were always looking to make savings. “If we can deliver savings through collaboration and working across the GLA group of course we will do it,” she said.

She later continued: “We have got very different models of delivery on some functions at the moment that makes it very difficult in one swoop to go into a one-service-for-all functional bodies system. Early in the new year we’ll be sitting down and looking at information from all the contract databases of the GLA group to look at where the opportunities might be. If you go to structure first, and not look at what sort of service you’re trying to deliver, then you’re going to get the wrong answer.”

Nick Griffin, added: “This isn’t an easy task. My view is that we’re in a better place than we were, we’ve got people sitting around a table talking about the items they’re going to work on, we’ve got a work programme, an idea of what we can achieve… we’re moving in the right direction. Am I frustrated by it? I guess I would be, because I’d like to see it moving a lot more quickly but I understand why these things take time.”

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