Purpose – This article aims to explore public-public partnership issues arising when public sector organisations work together in order to deliver a new government sponsored initiative. Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative approach was adopted for this study, employing in-depth interviews across four UK case study sites. The rich qualitative data gathered from these interviews is analysed utilising a thematic framework. Findings – The findings indicate that most of the participants did not feel that they were involved in a partnership and had little or no contact with their partner. The key role of inter-personal relationships amongst individual members is emphasised. Research limitations/implications – The findings presented represent the pilot sites utilised in a government sponsored initiative. As future public-public partnerships develop, further research should be undertaken to explore this phenomenon and establish the generalisability of these findings. Practical implications – The study indicates that while there are clear benefits of partnership working, achieving successful collaboration is not straightforward. Improvements need to be made to develop partnerships using both formal and informal communication methods. Originality/value – This paper demonstrates the importance of the relationships between, and perceptions of, personnel at an individual level in the success of public-public partnerships.