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Whole-place pilots urge further engagement to drive savings

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Councils drawing up a ‘cookbook’ for redesigning public services across the country claim the state could double its money by investing in reform - but only if ministers remain committed to their community budgets programme.

Details of some of the final business cases from the four ‘whole place’ pilots’ seven-month projects have emerged ahead of next week’s deadline.

One pilot - Cheshire West and Chester - believes net benefits of more than £50m could be realised over five years. But all the pilots to which LGC spoke agreed more work was needed before meaningful savings could be realised.

Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin called in July for the pilots to produce by the end of October a “cookbook” showing how savings and improved services could be achieved across the country.

Papers due to be discussed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority tomorrow said the work carried out by the city’s pilot so far “has illustrated the scale of the challenge for community budgets to become business as usual in Greater Manchester”. It now wants to work with government on an “ongoing basis” to “unlock greater savings”.

The pilots have been using a ‘maturity matrix’ to chart the progress of individual projects within each pilot.

Greater Manchester’s three most advanced projects - on integrated care, fuel poverty and troubled families - are ready to start negotiating an agreement on how investment from different public agencies and the savings that investment delivers should be split. None of its 11 projects are ready to be scaled up nationally.

The pilots have all worked with a technical advisory group set up by the Treasury to agree the robustness of figures used in cost benefit analyses. How net benefits are shared has been one of the key focuses for the pilots.

Cheshire West and Chester’s pilot has projected a net benefit across the county of £57.1m of savings over five years on the back of £49.3m gross investment in more joined up public services.

However, figures discussed by the council’s executive this week showed that while the local authority would bear more than half the up-front costs, it would see less than a fifth of the net benefits over five years, with health bodies in particular seeing larger net benefits on the back of smaller investments.

As well as addressing the barriers to a fairer distribution of such savings, the pilots are set to put a number of ‘asks’ to ministers.

Cheshire wants to establish a West Cheshire Strategy Board with pooled budgets and decision making incorporating all local agencies.

Essex’s pilot, meanwhile, wants to hand the commissioning of social care services to a local clinical commissioning group as part of a range of redesigned services.

Speaking to LGC last week, Essex CC chief executive Joanna Killian hailed the pilot’s work and said joint working would continue locally. “Even if government doesn’t like everything or can’t agree to all our asks, we’re still going to do it. It might take longer but it’s necessary,” she said.

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