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Norfolk councils set up body for sharing services at cost and free of VAT

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Two councils in Norfolk have teamed up with Voluntary Norfolk to establish a body allowing not-for-profit organisations to provide services – including legal advice – to each other at cost and free of VAT.

The service, called Coastshare, was made possible following a change in legislation in February this year. This made the supply of services between not-for-profit bodies exempt from VAT, where those services are supplied at cost through a cost-sharing group.

The local authorities involved in the project are North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) and Great Yarmouth Borough Council. Eastlaw, the legal team hosted by NNDC, will provide legal services under the arrangements. It was provided with a waiver by the Solicitors Regulation Authority so it could participate in the scheme.

Coastshare offers a menu of services to member organisations via a website. In addition to legal advice, the initial services to be offered include HR and employment, payroll, accountancy, project management and procurement.

NNDC said member bodies would be able to provide services to other members and be reimbursed at cost for the delivery of that service.

It added that the costs of the not-for-profit company would be absorbed by the organisations underwriting the venture (any member liability will be limited to £1). Members will only pay for what they use.

Trevor Ivory, NNDC Cabinet Member for Legal Services, Localism and the Big Society, said: “Right now, in the current economic climate, the need for collaboration between local voluntary organisations has never been higher, with more than 25% of organisations saying that they are uncertain about their survival.

“The ability for voluntary organisations to have access to a range of back office and administrative services through Coastshare will increase individual resilience and improve the capacity of the sector as a whole to deliver services that are more responsive to the needs of local communities.”

Cllr Trevor Wainwright, Leader of Great Yarmouth, said: “The councils in Great Yarmourth and North Norfolk are the very first local authorities to develop a cost-sharing group, so we are pioneering this innovative approach nationally.

“Coastshare has the potential to deliver vital savings for both councils and not-for-profit organisations at a time when both sectors are under increasing financial pressure from the Government to do more with less money.”