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13 December 2010 | Angeline Albert

Councils should be sharing purchasing departments, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has said today.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Pickles said local authorities in England could respond to a reduction in their budgets - to be announced this afternoon - by sharing functions with other councils.

He said: “There is going to be reduction in the amount of spending that local authorities have. We are suggesting local authorities look towards sharing chief executives, sharing back offices including procurement.

“I believe it’s possible to take significant sums out of local authorities by improving the way in which local authorities operate. They’ve simply got to wake up to the fact that it’s no longer viable to have their own legal departments, their own education departments, their own planning departments.”

Pickles said he was “expecting local authorities to provide more for less”, based on advice gained from the Local Government Association as to what councils can manage in terms of the reduction in their spending powers without damaging services. It was well within the boundaries for the majority of councils, he said.

The UK government’s spending review confirmed UK local authority funding from central government will fall by 28 per cent over the next four years.

Three London councils – Westminster City Council, Hammersmith and Fulham Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – believe they could save between £50 million and £100 million annually by combining services such as procurement.

A group of five councils in the Midlands have also begun to collaborate, claiming they can save 10 per cent each on their individual spend.

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