The great appetite across local government for adopting a ‘delivery unit’ approach has become increasingly clear since I first wrote in the LGC Idea Exchange the delivery unit here in Haringey.
There is a demand from other authorities to explore how they might apply the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit model of challenging and supporting service delivery through problem solving and analysis to achieve better outcomes.
Although this interest reflects well on Haringey and the unit it also provides an insight in to some of the challenges other local authorities face. There are some consistent questions emerging:
How can we effectively manage demand?
In a climate of decreasing resource, effectively managing demand, and in particular making more explicit opportunities to link performance to cost, is a challenge facing many councils. Our recent review of demand across the council helped establish a toolkit that will enable service managers and commissioners to better understand demand. As we refine this through experience, we will be exploring how a focus on performance measures can enable services to better manage cost pressures and deliver savings.
How do we improve capability?
A number of boroughs we spoke to are in the process of establishing units or teams similar to the delivery unit model. It is clear that in the immediate post-2010 rush to make savings, many councils removed their performance improvement functions, leaving many with significant gaps in in-house expertise vital to drive improvement. Aligned to this is a capability deficit across organisations as they try to get permanent, skilled staff in place and develop service managers that are able to deliver in an increasingly complex environment.
How do we share good practice?
Opportunities to share good practice are often missed, ignored or seen as too expensive. It becomes easy to fall into the trap of thinking our challenges are unique or that, with increasing demand, budget cuts and pressure to change, there is just too much to do with the day job. This risks us becoming inward-looking, retreating into the mindset that our circumstances or history make us different. In fact, the similarities across councils are far greater than the differences in the challenges faced. Making space to share and learn from others is a great driver for improvement.
These themes will of course be familiar to many authorities, and are regularly highlighted through our work with services in Haringey.
Talking about our work provides a great opportunity to take stock and refine our approach – a process which is continuous. We have an opportunity to develop a delivery network to enable us to understand more about what works in improving service delivery and achieving better outcomes.
David McNulty, head of corporate delivery unit, Haringey LBC