Local authorities in the north and north-east are planning to collaborate more widely – despite concerns about job losses.
Highland councillors last week backed proposals to pool skills with Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils by merging their procurement departments.
The arrangement is aimed at saving the trio millions of pounds each year.
The merger of departments responsible for buying all supplies and equipment promises a combined purchasing power of more than £1billion and cumulative savings of £22million over five years.
Highland finance director Derek Yule has confirmed the move “provides a template for other opportunities” such as the three councils’ revenues and benefits departments.
He said: “It’s an option we’re looking at just now, and very much looking at the skills mix across the three councils.
“We see opportunities there. Whether we’re able to deliver it or not, it’s early days yet.”
Last week’s radical agreement apparently poses no threat to existing council jobs.
In fact, five jobs will be created in Inverness and none of the existing staff will need to move location.
Asked if such stability could be guaranteed with additional collaboration, Mr Yule said: “I actually see it as an opportunity rather than a threat, to be honest.
“What the finance service does is a range of key activities that the council has no option but to deliver.
“But with the pressure on budgets we have to be more efficient and find different ways of doing that.
“Some of the early opportunities – things we’ve looked at – is using technology to actually retain posts in rural areas.
“Even within Highland, we operate out of eight separate offices for revenues and benefits. It doesn’t matter where staff are located. We can offer a service using technology.”
Aberdeen City Council head of procurement Craig Innes said: “I think this will potentially start discussion on a more regional approach to things.
“You’re always going to have a difference between rural and urban councils.
“I don’t think you’re going to create one big beast.
“There are things where economy of scale comes into play but we’re very much driven on the local side of things as well and it’s getting the local providers more ingrained into the supply chain opportunities of the bigger contracts that come through.”