Councils Blame H&F for End of 'Tri-borough' Arrangement

But leader says there have been concerns about value of sharing services

A row has broken out between Hammersmith and Fulham Council and neighbouring councils in Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea over the collapse of a 'tri-borough' arrangement which involved the three councils sharing a number of services in order to save money.

In a joint statement, published on 27 March, Westminster City Council and Kensington and Chelsea said they had "reluctantly" decided to serve notice to terminate the service sharing arrangements in the areas of Adult Social Care, Children’s Services and Public Health, which have been in operation since 2011.

In the statement they say the move follows the gradual emergence of a Hammersmith and Fulham plan to set up an in-house 'people's' department that, once established, would take over and deliver these key services to Hammersmith & Fulham residents alone.

"We had no wish to withdraw from sharing arrangements with Hammersmith and Fulham," said Royal Borough Leader, Cllr Nick Paget-Brown. “But these are vital services to vulnerable people. As knowledge of Hammersmith and Fulham’s plan grew, staff were becoming more and more anxious about their futures and that of the critically important services they work so hard to provide.

"These services need certainty and stability in order to be reliable and effective. We have taken this action in order to restore that certainty and stability."

The formal severance notice means that by 1 April 2018 Hammersmith and Fulham will be going it alone while Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster will continue to share these services.

The two councils say they will also now seek reassurance in relation to what remains of the tri-borough arrangement and also in relation to services it still shares with Hammersmith & Fulham alone, most notably waste and recycling.

Stephen Cowan, leader of Hammersmith and Fulham, has responded with a statement saying:
"“We’ve had concerns for some time about the value of the 'tri-borough', its lack of transparency and its built-in conflicts of interest."

Hammersmith and Fulham Council currently has a Labour administration, while the other two councils are under Conservative control.

The statement continues: "In our last two budgets, Hammersmith & Fulham Council found £31 million in savings but the 'tri-borough' contributed no more than £200,000 of that, less than 1%.

"Problems with tri-borough contracts, procured by Westminster City Council, have cost Hammersmith & Fulham over £5 million, including the botched contract for special needs transport that put our disabled children at risk.

"And senior tri-borough officers have had to balance Hammersmith and Fulham’s determination to keep Charing Cross Hospital open with Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea’s support for closing it.

"Triggering withdrawal is evidently a long-planned move by the two councils. I look forward to having sensible discussions with them about how we can all move on in the best way for our residents."

The other councils alsosay the door remains open should Hammersmith and Fulham wish to find an alternative way of working together.

April 6, 2017