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Bucks was the first county to set up a central admin service – and we saved £1.73m

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There’s a giant dinosaur which pops up at the start of an internal presentation on the corporate business support (CBS) service at Buckinghamshire CC.

 

  • Project: Corporate Business Support
  • Objectives: To unite the various departmental support teams to create one central, professional resource for the whole authority
  • Timescale: 2012 to present
  • Cost to authority: Officer time - one full time project manager, three part-time officers, one full time admin support
  • Number of staff working on project: Five
  • Outcomes: Savings of £1.73m over the first five years, better career progression and motivation for staff, more consistency across the organisation
  • Officer contact details: businessservicesplus@buckscc.gov.uk

It’s called the ‘adminosaurus’ and it’s a rather unsubtle metaphor for the old fashioned way business support operated prior to 2012.

Each service had its own army of administrative staff. We could see there was massive potential to make support services far more efficient. That is why, in 2012, Buckinghamshire became the first county council to establish a single corporate support service for the whole authority.

Five years on it is clear this decision has paid off. The CBS has delivered savings of £1.73m. It has lowered business support overheads across the organisation by ensuring work sits in the right place; senior managers aren’t on admin duty and frontline staff are freed from back-office duties.

A number of other councils have approached us about setting up their own version of the CBS and we offer a consultancy service to help others achieve our outcomes. It is win-win all round.

Originally there was a lot of resistance from services that didn’t want to lose control of their own support. It took a great deal of relationship-building to earn the respect and positive feedback we now receive.

Agreeing budget transfers and explaining how savings would be realised also required a great deal of negotiation and patience. Another challenge was to change the behaviour of employees who had been transferred to the CBS from individual services. The service in which they were previously based was now their customer. This was a tough one to crack, but we did it by putting a lot of effort into how we managed, supported and developed people.

Our 300-strong team is valued for its experience and expertise across the board.

Transforming the way we were organised also meant the council could be dynamic in the way it chose to support priority services. For example, we have provided extra support to our children’s service to clear backlogs and free up social workers’ time.

The variety of work has created a far more exciting environment for staff. They have a great opportunity to grow within the CBS and we’ve also found it can act as a springboard for careers into other areas of the authority.

This year we have focused on expanding further the opportunities the CBS can provide to people, no matter what their background is. We’ve employed eight new apprentices, taking our tally over the last five years to 18. We have also taken on four people with high-functioning autism.

In the last five years the CBS has worked on many exciting projects that have had a beneficial impact on services for our residents. A number of them go way beyond the typical definition of ‘admin work’.

Take our work co-ordinating multi-agency groups, which bring together doctors and representatives from social services, mental health, district nursing, housing associations, environmental health and trading standards. The groups take place at nearly 50 surgeries across Buckinghamshire and have been widely praised for their work preventing avoidable hospital admissions and fostering a change in culture from crisis management to prevention.

Here’s my favourite testimonial since the CBS went live, from an adult social care manager: “Not only have they dealt professionally and consistently with the routine, day-to-day administrational tasks that come their way and can be relied on to perform these to a high standard, but they also regularly go beyond this level of support providing capacity and ownership to a variety of additional pieces of work, often at periods of significant pressure in the department. From the mundane to the complicated they have always been ready to help.”

That sums up perfectly why we’re so proud of what has been achieved in the last five years.

Pauline Page, CBS operations manager, Buckinghamshire CC

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