Awards: Croydon - efficiency
Croydon LBC is rightly proud to have achieved recognition for its efficiency savings, as councils respond to the challenge of coping with the toughest Town Hall financial settlement in living memory.
Only a few years ago the council had virtually nothing left in the bank. In its submission for the competition Croydon argued that only those councils most responsive to change would be able to survive in an unprecedented period of financial turbulence and uncertainty.
Croydon was able to win over judges with evidence of £25m efficiency savings in 2009-11 – a track record which has left it well-placed to confront a £52m funding gap between 2010-14.
In 2009-10 alone it saved £3m in adult services, £2m in community services and £5m in central departments.
At the heart of Croydon’s cost-saving success has been a change in its cultural ethos, to embed efficiency in the way the organisation works from day-to-day. Customer insight and experiences have helped shape the efficiencies the council has delivered and staff are constantly encouraged to adopt a creative approach and look out for innovative ideas to reduce costs.
This is in part achieved by using the council’s Leadership Academy, which was set up in 2008 to help identify the ‘potential leaders of tomorrow’. Under the scheme staff wishing to take part undergo a year-long programme to develop their community engagement, partnership working and other skills.
Other staff development schemes include the ‘Release and Deliver’ programme, which was designed to increase efficiency by improving procurement practices, financial management and customer engagement.
The council’s approach is fully endorsed at member level. Cabinet member for customer services, Councillor Sara Bashford said: “We constantly confront the brutal facts about our business, recognising and being honest about where we can drive down costs and improve performance through effective benchmarking. We ensure that our focus is on excelling at what matters most to our residents.”
Just one example of Croydon’s efficiency culture is in the way it embraced the Total Place pilot projects, in which some £10m of efficiency opportunities were identified by focusing on outcomes for children from conception to the age of seven.
This was achieved by fundamentally changing the way services worked across public agencies, ending silo-based policy-making and resulting in potentially more families staying together, fewer children going off the rails and better health outcomes in later life.
Focusing on customers has also reaped benefits for the council, such as the community improvement fund used to finance projects requested by local residents. A scheme aimed at improving local parks also gave residents the chance to vote on which parks received a share of a £1.5m fund, and how the money was spent.
The overall approach is paying off, with customer satisfaction ratings climbing and mounting government requests for Croydon to pass on its efficiency ratings tips to other public bodies.
[Box: The judges’ view
The winner has really embedded efficiency in to the DNA of the council. Customers are at the heart of everything that they do – such a proactive approach can only produce great results.
[Box: Effiency award shortlist
Birmingham City Council (highly commended)
South Hams DC and West Devon BC
West Sussex CC