Five councils have this week issued a prior information notice (PIN) on the procurement of a range of support and transactional services – including legal – worth £20m a year.
The exercise is being led by South Oxfordshire District Council and the Vale of White Horse District Council, which already jointly use an external provider for revenues and benefits.
It is this contract that the councils are understood to be looking to expand when it expires in July 2016.
The other councils potentially involved in the new arrangements are Hart District Council, Havant District Council, and Mendip District Council.
The PIN said: “In some cases this represents the re-provisioning of services that have already been externalised, and for other services currently performed in-house the councils intend to conduct a market test for these.”
In addition to legal, the services so far identified for market testing include property management, IT security, democratic services, facilities management, human resources, licensing, accountancy, IT infrastructure support, and procurement.
“This list is just an indication of the potential scope and is subject to change prior to formally commencing procurement in early 2015,” the notice said. “No guarantee is given at this stage that all of the services will be required, or that all the councils listed will proceed.”
A market engagement day is scheduled for 23 October 2014 at South Oxfordshire District Council's offices in Wallingford.
“The purpose of the day will be to provide prospective bidders with further information about this opportunity, and to inform decisions as to scope, commercial arrangement for any future contract, and procurement strategy,” the PIN explained.
Earlier this month South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse said in a statement that “in modest estimates” the councils expected to make additional savings of at least £5m over a ten-year period.
Cllr Matthew Barber, leader of the Vale of White Horse, said: “Over the past few years, our shared working with South Oxfordshire has significantly improved the financial stability of the Vale. We can’t undo that good work by resting on our laurels – some authorities have their heads in the sand over their financial situations – we’d rather face up to future challenges and deal with them properly.”
Cllr David Dodds, cabinet member for finance at South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Taking a measured but innovative approach now will mean we can secure the very best deal for the district. Some councils are waiting to see what might happen in the future – but by then it will be too late and they’ll inevitably have to cut services. By acting now, we can make sure we continue to provide the very best services for our residents for the best possible value – without cuts.”