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East Riding scored top marks when the Audit Commission inspected its financial management. Ana Paula Nacif reports...
East Riding scored top marks when the Audit Commission inspected its financial management. Ana Paula Nacif reports

Council East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Award LGC Awards 2006

Category Winner, finance

Sponsor Public Sector Consultants

East Riding of Yorkshire Council scored 100% for financial management in the comprehensive performance assessment (CPA). No mean feat, considering the stringent criteria and the usual difficulties councils face trying to keep their finances under control.

The winner of this year's LGC Award for finance, East Riding was the only council in the country to achieve maximum scores in all 18 elements of the CPA.

The cost of the council's key services is low in relation to the population, which stands at 314,000. But value for money is not the only key to the authority's success.

East Riding has also developed strong community involvement, with four budget conferences held every November so residents can have their say on where the money should go.

Jim Wright, chief accountant, says: 'We don't put anything forward we cannot deliver and we also discuss income generating options. So if residents want to increase the service in one area, they know we will have to save money elsewhere, find an alternative way of generating more income or put the council tax up. It is an educational process which helps people realise how difficult the job is.'

The council has also kept a watchful eye on revenue through effective tax collection mechanisms and fraud-prevention schemes such as the 'residency checker' - a system which allows the council to cross check its credit rating databases to identify people who have claimed that they are living alone, and can thus claim a 25% discount in council tax, but in fact are living with other people. This initiative alone could result in 'significant additional council tax income', says Mr Wright.

Council tax collection has also been improved: 67% of council taxpayers use direct debit, ensuring payments are made on time. An extra£1m was added to the collection fund in 2005 via these efficiency savings, which helped to keep the council tax increase down to 4.9%.

But council tax is not the only battle the authority is winning. The East Riding Pension Fund was valued at£1.4bn at 31 March 2005, having risen by 15% in one year. Around 70%, or£1bn, of the fund is managed internally.

To keep the momentum going, generate more jobs and bring in more money to the area, the council signed up for an eight-year public-private-partnership agreement with Arvato government services.

The partnership was set up last October, when around 500 council staff were moved to the company, which has now taken over the running of revenue services, financial assessments, payroll and creditor

payments, customer service centres, print and design, ICT, training and occupational health.

The council and Arvato have also formed a joint venture company which is expected to attract£400m of business to the region over the next eight years.

During the first four years, Arvato has pledged to create 600 jobs by setting up a business centre, providing similar services to the public and private sectors as it does with the council.

The council's Mr Wright is pleased with the results so far. 'Our first priority was to make sure there was no disruption for customers. So far, all our targets are being met.'

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