RE: 'Commissioning' Councils
Suffolk is an interesting example... particularly bearing in mind what's going on there at the moment. It appears from the local government press that the current CEx is being winkled out of her post (she is currently on gardening leave) and that the NSD will not be going ahead.
You may want to look at the tri-borough arrangements between Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham. Lambeth is pursuing a model which they call "the co-operative council" which offers a different spin on this - focusing more on partnership working than outright commissioning.
You msay also want to look at the abortive community budget pilots, although I'm not sure if any of them have actually come back with any firm results from their work.
I think Trafford have been doing some work in this area too.