Joint effort to shape sector's future
I was privileged to chair a debate at the LGA Conference recently that was the best of its kind: challenging, thoughtful and interesting.
There were some ideas put forward by the audience about what councils could consider looking at in the future:
- Properly ‘monetising’ waste so that the waste collection industry pays councils to take waste away rather than the other way round.
- Why are councils saving money independently from government departments and agencies? For example, some environmental quangos, you could give the strategic bits to DEFRA and the rest to councils.
- Councils should be as concerned with their income as they are with expenditure.
All fascinating stuff. At the LGA our Productivity Team have also been helping councils on a wide range of practical programmes. Firstly, we launched the third wave of our Capital & Asset programme this summer and expect to announce the successful councils next week. We’ve already been working with 26 councils covering a third of the country for the last two years. One such, Worcestershire, have identified savings in running costs of over £280m over 10 years, and are well on the way to raising over £100m in Capital receipts.
Our Adult Social Care Efficiency Programme was also launched in January; we’re spending £1m helping 44 councils to achieve savings ranging from 4% to, in one case, over 15% - big sums on the largest controllable budget for upper tier councils. Procurement is another area of possible efficiency savings for both central and local government. We think the sector has a good tale to tell, but we’re not complacent; we’ve just finished consulting on our Procurement Pledge, and we’re working with 72 councils to deliver innovative procurement in areas as diverse as Adult Social Care, Highways, and Recycling.
And at the simplest level, our most popular product is our ‘Productivity expert’ - could be from the private sector, or a member or officer – to come in and deliver that extra bit of capacity that drives out savings. In Allerdale our contracts expert has delivered the council some £900,000 worth of savings across four contracts already. Perhaps just as important, his expertise has transferred to the Allerdale staff who will be looking at a further tranche of contracts.
Our approach has been a combination of practical interventions to help with the immediate financial pressures, combined with preparing for the next Spending Review when efficiency & productivity simply won’t be enough. We think this needs to be a joint endeavour with Whitehall, and we’re working with the Cabinet Office on a Commissioning Academy for both senior civil servants and council managers - 20 councils have already signed up to the first two cohorts.
Councils will exist in 2020, but they’ll certainly look a whole lot different from the way they do now.
Cllr Peter Fleming, Chairman of the LGA’s Improvement Board