A PLAN for Wirral Council to share “back office” services with neighbouring authorities looks set to be put on ice.
Last August, it was announced that merging certain council functions could help reduce costs by around £70m.
But today, following detailed analysis, Wirral’s chief executive Graham Burgess has made what he described as a “brave” decision to call a halt to the scheme.
However the U-turn was blasted by Wirral's Tory group leader Jeff Green, who said it was a "massive governance failure."
Councillor Green stormed: "I warned that this was going to happen.
"The basics should tell you that you do the business analysis first, then make the announcement. Not the other way around.
"I've written to Mr Burgess asking how much taxpayer money and staff time has been wasted.
"Once again, the taxpayers of Wirral are having to pick up the bill for failure."
Mr Burgess said: “We are dealing with unprecedented levels of cuts, with more to come from 2015.
“So it’s important that we consider innovative and different ways to deliver the best possible services to our communities and limit the impact on front line services.
“The work we are doing to review and remodel all of Wirral council’s services is vital to determining the best delivery models for the future and we have said all along that we would not share services with other authorities unless there was a strong business case for doing so.
“It is right to thoroughly investigate an opportunity and have the bravery to say it isn’t right for us at the moment.
“The work we have already done is not wasted and puts us in a much stronger position to deliver our internal service reviews.”
The plan had envisioned sharing a range of functions - from finance and human resources to information technology and legal services – with Cheshire West & Chester and Cheshire East Councils.
Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Phil Gilchrist said he was "disappointed" by the decision to call a halt.
"The last Government urged councils to share back office functions and cut costs in March 2010, exactly four years ago," he said.
"Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but had Wirral started all this earlier we might have got farther down the road. I suspect Wirral is trying to wrestle with many competing projects.
"It is proving difficult to get everything done after Wirral’s difficulties and upheavals over the past five years."
The recommendation to pause the process will be made to the council's ruling cabinet next Thursday.
It will coincide with the start of a major project to “redesign” the way all services are delivered to the public.
A joint statement at the time said: “Reducing duplication, bureaucracy and making the most of economies of scale and increased efficiency will create considerable cash savings for both authorities, and secure the protection of front line services.”