Thursday 01 December 2011
Many local authorities are considering the alternative models of service delivery that exist as part of their on-going plans to deal with the financial austerity they face over coming years. Issues that should be close to the top of any list when weighing up the pros and cons of each option are governance and accountability.
One fundamental lesson learned by many local authorities over the last decade or two is that the more contractualised a service delivery mechanism is, the less governance control and local democratic accountability you will have over it. This does not necessarily absolve you of blame either should things go wrong. I only need to think back to last winter when local authorities were getting a roasting from the media and public alike for not responding quickly enough in gritting roads – despite the fact in some instances responsibility for the roads had been outsourced for over a decade.
Of course many authorities have been shying away from wholesale outsourcing as a result of the immediacy of cuts and the length of time large-scale procurement exercises take to deliver. Some, however, have looked towards wholly owned arms length companies to give themselves the reassurance that if things go wrong they can still bring the service back in-house. Despite this, representatives of the council who sit on the boards of these organisations are legally bound to act in the interests of the organisation rather than the council. It is therefore of vital importance to get the heads of terms correct when setting up any such company.
With the Localism Act recently passing into law the ‘right to challenge’ may lead to further fragmentation of services through a variety of different approaches including social enterprise, mutuals and co-operatives. In the current financial climate is it really the right time to be handing public funds over to small groups of individuals without any recourse or on-going scrutiny? APSE's recent research surveyed more than 1,600 sources and found a lack of evidence as to the benefits of this model for local service delivery.
Looking to the future, it is likely that local government will have a whole variety of arrangements when it comes to service delivery. Will elected members have a significant level of influence and control in this brave new world or will they be reduced to the role of the favourite old uncle at family gatherings who regales everyone with tales of the good old days whilst no one really pays much attention to them.
Tuesday 05 October 2010
Attend the Conservative party conference Sunday and Monday and we hold a fringe with South Warwickshire Conservative Association on ‘getting more bang for the public buck’ through procurement, with Neil McInroy from CLES speaking with APSE’s Mark Bramah.
The conference itself doesn’t appear as stage managed and controlled as new Labour did when they were in government. This means that when you walk around the event you are likely to bump into big beasts like William Hague, George Osborne, Boris Johnson, Theresa May and Liam Fox standing around in corridors talking. However it’s also the first time I have been to a political conference that has Crombie coats, Harvey Nichols and Austin Reeds exhibiting!
The mood also seems a bit more subdued than I would have expected from a political party that has just come into government after 13 years in opposition. Speculating that this could be because party members know how unpopular they will be once the cuts start to impact on public services.
Friday 24 September 2010
Spoke today at the Supply Conference North West on how the public and private sectors can work together better. It was mainly a private sector audience of suppliers to local government.
After putting the economic context facing public services at present I went on to talk about the interdependency of the public and private sectors upon each other in local economies. I have explained our economic footprint research and the £1.64 concept on this blog many times before.
The Prime Ministers 'We are all in this together' video clip raised a laugh especially because of some problems with the technology.
APSE's 'More Bang for the public buck' research raised a lot of interest.
My conclusions were that in the current climate the public sector are going to be even more focused on getting every penny of value they can from procurement processes in order to maximise the value of their spend for the local community. There will be a much greater emphasis on promoting local economies, along with better supplier management and any supplier who really wants to be successful with local authorities will need to demonstrate how they can bring added value to that area.
One brave soul suggested that focusing on local economies like Manchester was wrong and that value was all about cost. He was from a business outsourcing services company from Yorkshire!
Friday 05 March 2010
APSE launched its latest research publication ‘Getting more Bang for the Public Buck, a guide to using procurement to achieve community benefits,’ at the Conservative Councillors Association conference in London today.
The guide looks at how you can maximise the benefit to local economies through the expenditure you make as an authority. Earlier research APSE published on measuring the economic footprint made by a local authority’s spend showed that for every £1 they spent on local services £1.64 circulates in the local economy. This research measured things like employee expenditure, money spent with local sub-contractors and local suppliers.
What ‘Getting more bang for the public buck’ shows is that if a concentrated effort is made to ensure the maximum amount possible of this expenditure is made with local companies then this figure can rise to £2 and beyond.