Councils involved in the groundbreaking Total Place programme have expressed unease after the government appointed a consultancy firm to help run some of the main elements of the scheme.
The Department for Communities & Local Government has commissioned Tribal to test the findings of the 13 pilot areas and help them work with the department to decide on next steps.
With the pilots also being issued with a template to feed their initial findings into next month’s pre-Budget report, the involvement of Tribal could lead to fears ministers are trying to standardise the diverse work being done by the pilot authorities.
The chief executive of one authority involved in the programme urged those running the programme to give the pilots space to carry out their research.
“The government needs to back of a bit, the people on the ground need a bit of space,” he said. “There was a meeting of project managers last week where Tribal got a roasting. Generally, people don’t understand what role they are supposed to be playing.”
The pilots have just completed high-level counts of the totality of public spending in their areas and are now commencing on “deep dives” to investigate how efficiencies and improvements can be driven from various services and areas of social policy.
According to a briefing document seen by LGC, Tribal will help deliver a “top down view” of the counting process for central government to provide a “framework and route map” for other authorities. They will also devise a framework for the “deep dives” so they can be used elsewhere in the public sector. On top of this work, Tribal are also reviewing the pilots’ understanding of customers interact with services and the extent to which it is driving their work.
Meanwhile, the pilots have until next Friday to submit details of their work for the pre-Budget report. With the counting work already having substantially over-run, they have been asked to supply answers to a set of questions.
Information on the potential financial savings and improvement in outcomes from the pilots has been requested along with the barriers encountered and how they might be overcome.
DCLG confirmed Tribal would work with all 13 pilots: “Tribal Consulting have been commissioned by CLG to play a key role analysing and mapping public expenditure and working directly with the 13 pilots on customer insight, as part of the Total Place initiative.
“Their involvement from an early stage will help increase the potential for the Total Place initiatives to reach well beyond the boundaries of Local Government to meet the needs of customers now and in the future.”