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Efficiency depends on effective resources management, but the manner in which we account ...
Efficiency depends on effective resources management, but the manner in which we account

for our most dynamic resource is lamentable.

Admittedly, a healthy balance sheet usually reflects the capabilities of good human resources - but how do we consistently record the true 'worth' of those staff?

How can we consider the effectiveness of diverting back-room resources to provide more frontline staff?

There is no trustworthy account of local authority staff who are now employed in England.

While efficiency reviews rage around us, neither figures nor statements measuring the quality, capacity or worth of the people who manage the delivery of our local services exist in the public domain.

In the meantime, more authorities have been making use of interim management resources.

This is done to provide additional short-term capacity, important skills that are not possessed by the organisation to implement new working practices, or to turn round poor performance.

Managing the cost of interim staffing is obviously a good thing - but to do so effectively requires some understanding of the market.

For instance, several authorities are seeking to use intermediaries to manage the cost of hiring temporary staff - so called 'master vendors' who source staff from a number of secondary suppliers at fixed prices.

It has to be admitted that bringing some order and co-ordination to the procurement function is required, particularly for those authorities already spending heavily on temporary staff.

However, there is no better regulator of prices than the marketplace itself, and adopters of such centralised purchasing arrangements will need to be careful.

Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy Placements, one of IPF's principal services, has noted that whereas the London boroughs were once the main users of interim management services, many more authorities are now realising the benefits of using associates to introduce new working practices and provide a fresh look at their operations.

From our point of view, the permanent human resources of most local authorities can benefit hugely from the transfer of skills deriving from the appropriate use of temporary resources.

While it appears that, at the end of last year, there were fewer authorities experiencing difficulties with recruiting persons with the appropriate finance skills, there appear to be considerable problems in appointing social workers and planners/surveyors.

The human resources management profession deserves some support for raising the people resource up the management improvement agenda.

Phillip Ramsdale

Executive director, IPF

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