Working together

So Camden and Islington are going to share a chief executive from next May. I must say that I find these sorts of arrangements to be gimmicky. It's seems that two heads is not better than one but I can't believe the savings is worth the aggravation. And I've never known a chief executive who felt their job only filled half their time.

Let's say both councils save the cost of half a chief executive. That must be about £125,000 a year, which is a small contribution towards the tens of millions of savings that need to be made. In fact, I doubt that the councils would save as much as half a salary. Won't the combined chief executive get a pay rise for being responsible for twice as many staff, etc and won't there be a temptation for each council to have a deputy chief executive who will be in charge when the chief executive is in the other place?

Surely the level of savings that are needed in public bodies can only be achieved by more radical models of working together. What's happened to all the potential from Total Place? It seems to me that public bodies have all retreated into their individual shells to work out how to inflict the cuts on themselves but perhaps if they took a more outward-looking approach to the current situation they would see something different. Here's an idea that a friend and I were chatting about over coffee earlier today.

Why aren't councils within a city-region asking one of their number to run a library service across the whole city area on behalf of all the councils. And perhaps they could transform the service away from a branch network to a system like Amazon's DVD service where a citizen orders some books and they are delivered by post or courier and only when they have given the books back can they borrow some more. The combined library service could also subscribe to the electronic library resources that are used in universities thereby giving citizens access to masses of electronic information. It would be radically different from what people are traditionally used to but we live in times that are radically different from when free public libraries were conceived.