The City of Bradford MDC’s corporate management team is not just a weekly meeting, it gives the strategic directors their overarching purpose.
Strategic directors have responsibility for complex areas of service specific activity and expenditure. But their most important role is to be an integral part of the corporate council, developing seamless services across departments and leading collaborative working with partners from the local public, private and third sectors.
In the context of rapidly reducing public sector resources, the Bradford University School of Management has accelerated our thinking to develop new ways of working. (LGCplus: 2 September 2010). In liaison with elected members, we need to deliver a new vision of accessible, responsive and above all, efficient public services.
We need to see difficult challenges as opportunities and be able to take citizens, partners and council colleagues along with us. Councils need to have an honest discussion with their citizens about service priorities and about relationships - we’re no longer here to do things to local people but to support local people to do things for themselves.
The Bradford University School of Management’s ‘systems thinking’ learning helped us to further change our organisational culture, to act as critical friends within our own organisation and challenge traditional ways of doing things. We are now championing innovation within a framework of systemic change, rather than a series of reactions to external pressure.
Bradford’s Total Place pilot gave us a national and local focus for our change agenda. Its motto was “gateway to integrated services, supporting people back to independence”. We focused on young people leaving care, older people with mental health problems leaving hospital and offenders leaving prison.
Essentially this was about deconstructing existing services across agencies and rebuilding them with service users at the heart of the process. We are developing co-ordinated, cost-effective support services, which can help people make positive changes in their own lives.
Our change programme capitalises on our experiences from being a Total Place pilot and from the University of Bradford’s work with the corporate management team. We know that cultural and organisational change is essential to achieve outcomes, with significantly reduced budgets, for local people.
We are tailoring a new operating model, with elected members, which isn’t about structures, but is a set of principles for managing the business. We know we will have to do things differently - we cannot and should not automatically default to service delivery.
We need to improve productivity and efficiency, be clear about objectives and have the confidence to make decisions. We need to always deliver on commitments and to an agreed and consistent quality - not necessarily to the highest quality. We need to be aware of the difference between core and non-core business and be prepared to stop some service activity.
To be a modern and achieving council we must fully understand citizens’ and customers’ needs, deliver local leadership and strengthen collaboration between local partners, particularly around commissioning and procurement.
Most importantly of all, we need to continue learning so that we can operate sustainably in a changing public sector environment where both financial and human resources are going to be very limited.
Tony Reeves, chief executive, City of Bradford MDC