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BEST PRACTICE - IT PAYS TO MAKE THE JIGSAW FIT

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Gloucestershire CC had all the pieces in place, but it improved efficiency by moving them around. Ana Paula Nacif r...
Gloucestershire CC had all the pieces in place, but it improved efficiency by moving them around. Ana Paula Nacif reports

COUNCIL Gloucestershire CC

AWARD Winner, LGC Awards 2007

CATEGORY Efficiency

SPONSOR Fujitsu

With efficiency targets creating constant pressures, savings of half a million pounds would be a dream come true for many councils. But, it is not always easy to carve out efficiencies. For Gloucestershire CC, the winner of this year's LGC

Efficiency Award, it was a question of reviewing what it already did and then improving its process.

Streamlining bureaucracy has saved the council half a million pounds in one year

By changing the way it processed insurance claims the council saved£500,000 last year, making a significant contribution to the council's Gershon target. Claims payouts went down by 98% and its insurance premiums also went down.

'We looked at the insurance claim process from beginning to end, from when the claim is made through to court proceedings should the claim get to that stage,' says Owen Jenkins, project manager for Gloucestershire's highways.

Investment in staff training has paid off and boosted efficiency in the process

The council invested in staff training, so claims were handled more efficiently.

Mr Jenkins says: 'We don't expect our staff to defend the authority against claims, but they are there to take all the details accurately. Sometimes, if staff are not trained properly then they go into panic mode.'

Spurious claims are being picked up early through improved communication

The highways inspection system was modernised and new inspectors recruited. This was done at a price, but the drop in defects and insurance claims meant£105,000 was saved.

According to the insurance contract, the council is liable to pay claims below

£350,000, so payouts were amounting to nearly£500,000 a year and rising. Spurious claims were being paid out, including some where there were no defects at the site of the alleged accident.

One issue was that claims above£1,000 were sent to the insurers to handle. Because of a lack of communication between council departments and the insurance company, claims were being paid where there was no liability.

Now the council is consulted and has the final say on payments. And by promoting

better understanding and communication within the council and with its insurance company, fraudulent claims are discouraged.

Improved interdepartmental working has been crucial to success

Claims have been cut by 75% and repudiation rates increased from 64% to over 90% over three years, up to July 2006.

'One of main issues is insurance departments are usually placed within the business management function of the council, whereas highways is part of environment,' explains Mr Jenkins.

'In some counties, claims against highways go straight to insurance. We encouraged the two departments to work together. People in highways didn't understand what the insurance department wanted and the insurance people didn't know how we worked.'

Thanks to its success, the council's insurance company is recommending the system to other local authorities.

'Overall savings come from the fact our process works better,' says Mr Jenkins. 'All elements work and fit together properly. I suspect that other authorities may face the same problem - all the jigsaw pieces are there but they don't fit together properly.'

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