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Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 1 Value for money Self-assessment proforma Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council Mark Worrall, Leader Mike Dobson, Cabinet Member, Resources and Capital Projects Owen Baldock, Cabinet Member, Efficiency and Innovation David Hughes, Chief Executive Sharon Shelton, Director of Finance September 2005 Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 2 KLOE 5.1 How well does the council currently achieve good value for money? Reference to evidence source Achieving good value for money is a key element of how the TMBC approaches the delivery of its services. Our overall vision for the Borough Council is: ‘An organisation that provides excellent public services, good value for money and effective community TM1 - Corporate leadership’ Performance Plan (Page 6) To achieve this vision, we strive to provide high quality services to the community, and achieve good levels of customer satisfaction whilst keeping local council tax and service charges low. We believe this balance provides good value for money for our local residents. We were assessed as an excellent authority in 2004 via the Comprehensive Performance Assessment achieving the highest score of any district in the country. The Inspectors found that the borough council: ‘ knows what the public wants – excellent public services, value for money and [is] a council that shows TM2 - CPA Inspectors’ leadership in representing their interests – and has identified priorities to achieve this.’ Report (Page 4) In the latest BVPI general satisfaction survey, 2003/4, 68% of residents were satisfied with council services overall (BVPI 3). This places us in the top quartile both nationally and within our CIPFA family group and we are the highest performing district in Kent. More generally, based on national comparisons for 2003/04, the most recent year comparative information is available, we are in the top TM1 - Corporate quartile for 60% and in the inter-quartile range for 40% of satisfaction BVPIs. The corresponding figures Performance Plan (Page 6) for non-satisfaction BVPIs are 37% and 53% respectively. We are also able to demonstrate a positive TM3 - BVPI Spreadsheets direction of travel with 56% of comparable non-satisfaction BVPIs showing an improvement from 2003/04 to 2004/05. We provide excellent services and achieve high levels of satisfaction but at the same time have been able to maintain low council tax levels. Our Band D Council Tax for 2005/06 (excluding Parishes) is £137.99, £7.46 below the national average and £7.50 below the Kent average. We are lowest of the three ‘Excellent’ performing districts in Kent, £10 lower than Canterbury and £49 lower than Maidstone. This has been achieved despite the fact that we receive Government grant of only £51.94 per head of Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 3 population against a national average of £67.52 per head. Out of the 238 District Councils, 200 receive a higher grant per capita than that received by TMBC TM4 - Budget Guidance to We assess and challenge value for money issues via a variety of processes. Our annual budgeting Service Managers process starts with guidance being issued to service managers to assist them with a critical review of spending for the remainder of the current year and the coming year. Service managers must follow this guidance in setting revised budgets and budgets for the next financial year. We take seriously our statutory duty to secure Best Value and our reviews typically involve a detailed examination of costs of service provision, using comparisons with family groups and other Kent authorities, alongside an assessment of service quality taking into account the views of service users/residents. Reviews include a search for best practice and an assessment of the financial implications of any planned improvement against the likely benefits to service users. A number of recent reviews have involved consideration of whether potential service improvements have represented good value for money. The Leisure BVR involved an assessment of alternative TM28 – Leisure BVR service delivery options including the creation of a Leisure Trust to operate indoor leisure facilities. The TM5 - Council Tax, Council Tax, Business Rates and Housing Benefit BVR has identified a number of efficiency gains Business Rates and including proposals to consolidate staff at Kings Hill linked to the introduction of measures to provide an Housing Benefit BVR improved, broader customer service to residents through investment in new technology to enable payments to be made remotely. Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 4 5.1.1 How well do the council’s overall and service costs compare with others? Reference to evidence source Our overall service expenditure per head in 2004/5 is £131.26 which is below both the national TM6 - VFM spreadsheets (£142.62) and the Kent (£150.27) average for district councils. The challenge we have set ourselves is to keep Council Tax increases comparatively low whilst seeking to maintain and enhance the quality of our local services and improve the overall satisfaction of our customers. Where our costs are higher than the average, we believe such expenditure is justified in order to invest in, and improve, key priority services for the local community. We demonstrate this approach with the following examples: 1. Street Cleansing – we spend 65p per head more than the average district council on this service. However, this is a key corporate priority and we provide a top quartile service based on BVPI performance. It is rated as a 2* service. Within Kent, only three districts have a lower service cost but all have lower satisfaction ratings and a higher proportion of land with significant/heavy littering. 2. Waste Collection – we are in the lowest quartile on costs of this service but in the top quartile for residents’ satisfaction. 3. Economic and Community Development – we are a low spending authority but have an overall low level of deprivation and buoyant local economy. We therefore seek to target our resources to promote joint economic working at the West Kent (LSP) level and to focus regeneration efforts on our three pockets of deprivation. 4. Environmental and Public Health – we have the lowest expenditure per head of all Kent districts but deliver high quality services to meet local needs including food law enforcement, business health and safety, and pollution control. 5. Planning Services – although identified as a slightly above average spending authority on this TM49 – Planning Satisfaction service, the gross costs shown include expenditure that is financed from Planning Delivery Grant Survey and not the council tax payer. As we have performed well and attracted high levels of PDG (the highest in Kent for 2005/6), this inflates our service cost. Nevertheless, our investment in this key service has realised significant improvements in performance and quality standards. To reflect the community’s concerns about increasing development pressures and to ensure the planning service Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 5 can deliver other key priorities such as affordable housing, we have made early good progress towards the adoption of our LDF. We were the first authority in the Country to have an approved Statement of Community Interest. 6. Housing - based upon CIPFA statistics, our expenditure per head is below the national average for district councils. The service was rated 2* in February 2003 with promising prospects for improvement. In addition, the GOSE has assessed our Housing Strategy as “fit for purpose” for the last two years and ‘well above average’ before then. 7. Car Parking – we achieve the 4th highest return on car parking services in Kent. We ensure our charges are set at a competitive level compared to other towns to maintain retail viability at Tonbridge and for other, smaller centres, no charges are imposed to encourage the use of local shops and services. 8. Leisure Facilities – we spend below both the national and Kent district averages. For this cost, we operate: two leisure centres, two swimming pools, two country parks, a golf course, a tourist information centre, one Heritage site and over 350 hectares of sports grounds. Our leisure facilities have achieved excellent QUEST ratings over the past 24 months: Tonbridge Pool is ranked within the top 10% of facilities and following a recent review; Larkfield Leisure Centre is likely to rank as one of the best nationally. Resident satisfaction rates are in the top quartile (national and CIPFA family group). 9. Benefits and Taxation – our costs are below the national and Kent district average. We have achieved high satisfaction levels for our performance in respect of housing and council tax benefits. We are an upper quartile authority for all benefit BVPIs. For council tax collection, we are in the national top quartile and have consistently been one of the highest performers in Kent. We also perform well in respect of collection of business rates. 10. Corporate and Democratic Costs – Costs per head vary widely across Kent from £14.73 to £27.54. Given the general similarities between Kent authorities, we believe this suggests a variation in approach towards the allocation of such costs. We comply fully with BVACOP and this might account for our costs being slightly above the Kent average. Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 6 5.1.2 How do external factors affect costs and how do adjusted costs compare? Reference to evidence source The Borough contains two principal urban areas: Tonbridge and the Medway Gap area. Other areas are rural in character. We aim to provide a inclusive service to all residents. For example, our kerb side recycling is delivered to both urban and rural areas. The geographical nature of the Borough has some cost implications. For leisure/cultural provision, eg indoor sports centres, country parks, separate facilities are required to serve the north and south of the borough. Rurality means that the TM7 - Leisure Strategy costs of services such as street cleansing, refuse collection and recycling provision is higher. TM8 - Cultural Strategy High average house prices are similar to those in Surrey but average incomes are lower. Special TM9 - Housing efforts and increased resources are needed to provide sufficient affordable housing to achieve a Strategy balanced housing market. A buoyant local economy means that we operate in a tight labour market with strong competition for TM10 - HR Strategy experienced professional staff. Our salary levels have had to keep pace with the local market to ensure recruitment and retention of staff. We have invested in a range of successful HR policies: sickness management, vacancy management, succession planning etc which has enabled us to avoid the use of more costly agency staff to cover unfilled posts and long term absences. A major external influence on our costs comes from our employers superannuation rates. In a TM6 – VFM CIPFA survey, Kent County Superannuation employer contributions were 4% above the English Spreadsheets county average. This increased to 4.5% following the revaluation of the scheme in 2004/05. We therefore contribute £360,000 pa more than the average local authority. We act responsibly with regard to early retirements and discharge liabilities to the fund when such retirements take effect and so are not the cause of the very high contribution rate. The Borough contains three pockets of deprivation at Snodland, East Malling and Trench in north TM11 - Community Tonbridge. As a generally affluent area, it has proved difficult to attract external funding to support Strategy – Page 35 local regeneration initiatives. The Council has been required to fund its own contributions in support of partnership working in these communities. Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 7 5.1.3 To what extent are costs commensurate with service delivery, performance and the Reference to outcomes achieved? evidence source Our focus is to improve those services that are priorities for local residents, as revealed via surveys of our Citizens’ Panel and reflected in the Community Strategy. The CPA Improvement Plan has directed improvement action to those areas within the Council where the inspectors identified scope for improvement. The following examples, which link to the Council’s key priorities, illustrate how we achieve better value for money by investing and earmarking resources to improve priority services: (1) Street Scene: investing resources to meet residents’ desires to see improved and better co- TM12 – Background ordinated and more responsive street services. We achieved national top quartile Paper – Street Scene performance for BVPI 89 in 2003/4. TM13 – Background (2) Housing: meeting the need for affordable housing via partnership working with RSLs and Paper – Housing developers and investing in tackling homelessness, housing improvements and promoting TM14 – Background energy efficiency. Paper – Crime and (3) Crime and Disorder Reduction: extra resources put in place to increase police presence on Disorder streets via the introduction of PCSOs and to tackle anti-social behaviour. Crime levels overall TM15 – Background have been kept low as demonstrated in the recent Local Futures survey. Paper – Young People (4) Young People: investment to extend and develop existing activity programmes, new facilities TM16 - Background such as skate parks, and to engage more effectively with young people. Paper – Flooding (5) East Peckham Flooding Partnership: invested £250K to tackle land drainage problems and Partnership severe flooding in 2003 which demonstrated community leadership and facilitated partnership TM17 – Background working to enable additional external funding to be secured. Paper – Planning (6) Planning Delivery Grant: secured substantial grant due to improvements in performance Delivery Grant, TM49 which were re-invested in the service. Overall satisfaction has improved and we are now in – Planning Satisfaction the top quartile nationally for BVPI 111. Survey (7) Green Waste: staged roll out of new service to improve our recycling performance with the TM19 – Background costs of each stage assessed as part of our capital plan review process. Paper – Green Waste Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 8 (8) Leisure Capital Investment and Grants: investing in capital improvements to our existing TM20 – Background leisure facilities to ensure they meet customer needs and so sustain income levels from Paper – Leisure charges which helps to reduce net costs. We provide grants to parish councils/local groups to Investment enhance community leisure provision to provide a cost effective means of meeting community needs. (9) Healthy Living: investing in partnership working with health bodies and others locally and via the West Kent Partnership to address key public health issues and setting aside resources for TM21 – Background a range of projects that aim to bring health benefits to the local community. Paper – Healthy Living Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 9 5.1.4 To what extent do costs reflect policy decisions? Reference to evidence source Our Medium Term Financial Strategy ensures longer term targets and assumptions about inflation and government grant are taken into account when annual budgets are established. The MTFS TM22 – Medium Term spans a six year period and provides a sustainable basis for the delivery of resources. This Financial Strategy provides for the development and improvement of the council’s key services whilst ensuring council tax increases are kept to reasonable levels and our financial reserves can be maintained at an appropriate level. The MTFS is regularly reviewed both as part of the budget review process and TM23 - Review of when significant changes occur to ensure its assumptions and financial projections remain soundly MTFS based. Our adopted budget prioritisation model assesses the degree to which our annual spending is aimed TM24 - Budget at key priorities. Further refinements to the model have been introduced for this financial year. The Prioritisation Model most recent assessment has indicated that some 90% of our budgets are aligned to high and Information medium level priorities with 58% aligned to the highest priorities. Our capital plan process enables longer term, whole life costs of proposed projects to be carefully TM25 – Capital Plan assessed against their community benefits. The process involves a three stage evaluation and Process detailed assessments are required at each stage to justify a project moving on to the next. A fast- track procedure is in place to deal with urgent projects. This requires a detailed cost/benefit evaluation to take place prior to any scheme being adopted. A number of examples of recent policy decisions indicate how cost implications are assessed against their perceived benefits to ensure value for money is achieved: TM26 – Background (1) Refuse, Recycling and Amenity Cleansing Contract Re-tendering: The tender evaluation Paper – Refuse process involved an assessment of the quality of bids against costs. To achieve best value for Contract money, a single contract for all three services was let over a longer time scale of 14 years. TM27 – Background (2) Customer Contact Strategy: Following a best value review of public access, a Customer Paper – Customer Contact Strategy has been developed and has involved evaluation of CRM systems. This has Contact Strategy taken account of costs, customer needs and best fit with the Council’s existing structures. Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 10 (3) Leisure Best Value Review: This review has assessed the costs and benefits of developing different service delivery options including a separate Trust to operate the Council’s indoor TM28 – Background leisure facilities. Following detailed evaluation, a judgement was made that short term financial Paper – Leisure BVR gains did not outweigh potential future risks to maintaining the quality, continued community access and affordable costs to the consumers of the current service. (4) Changes to Staffing Establishment: The Council ensures that the benefits associated with any proposed change to the staffing establishment are considered against any added costs that TM29 – Employment might arise. We aim to ensure proposed changes lead to an overall saving in salary costs. There Stability Policy. is a specific requirement in the Council’s Employment Stability Policy that redundancies and early retirements pass ‘reasonableness’ and financial tests in line with Audit Commission good practice. (5) Transportation Services - A recent example of a major policy decision relates to the cessation of the Kent Highways Partnership with the County Council. The Council had previously TM52 – Background contributed an additional £250K to the partnership to provide higher quality services to the local Paper - Transportation community. With the transfer of highway responsibilities back to the County Council, we Services established a capital budget of £100K to pump prime partnership projects that are important to the community and which would otherwise not proceed. Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 11 KLOE 5.2 How well does the council manage and improve value for money? Reference to evidence source Priorities are established and approved for the next financial year during November-February of the previous year. This is managed via a structured process that: TM30 - Report on Review of Key - identifies priorities to be carried forward and new priorities Priorities - ensures that each priority is justified by national and/or local evidence - identifies continuing/new improvement actions to achieve each priority in the next financial year - identifies any further resources required to undertake improvement actions. Key and service priorities are communicated via our Corporate Performance Plan and a guide for each member of staff is issued. Key and service priorities, along with their associated improvement TM31 - Report on CS actions, and BVPI targets and priority LPI targets, are all cascaded down to Section Performance Mainstreaming/SPPs Plans (SPPs). Relevant Community Strategy actions are mainstreamed into appropriate Section TM32 - SPP Performance Plans so they can be monitored via the performance management system. Example(s) There are clear lines of accountability with regard to the management of budgets. Responsibility for each revenue budget head is assigned to a specific manager whose must monitor expenditure regularly against a budget profile. Service Management Teams discuss budgets on a regular basis. The Corporate Management Team monitors key revenue budgets on a monthly basis and focuses on over-spends and under-spends. They challenge service managers to justify variations and adjust budgets or spending accordingly. Regular financial planning and control reports are considered by the Finance and Property Advisory Board. Income, for example, from fees and charges, is monitored TM33 – Financial to ensure this remains on profile. Clear rules regarding overspends are set out in our Financial Planning and Control Procedures in the Council’s Constitution. Report to F&PAB Officer Groups monitor the progress and expenditure related to larger capital projects. The capital programme is monitored and reported to Finance and Property Advisory Board, with additional TM34 - Capital Plan monthly updates placed on the Council’s Intranet. Monitoring Report Our Corporate Management Team maintains control over expenditure on salaries, re-gradings and major training bids. This achieves a consistent approach across all services and pays regard to the wider cost implications to the Council. Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 12 Since 2000, TMBC has operated a Citizens’ Panel of up to 1300 participants which is used to gauge the views of our public about strategic and operational services. Survey results have also informed a TM35 - Recent number of Best Value and service reviews. For example, the recent survey of crime and disorder Example of Citizens’ helped identify the key themes important to local residents that needed to be addressed by the BVR. Panel Survey (C&D Our Consultation Strategy sets out the means of delivering better value for money from the way we 2004) undertake research and consultation. This includes the total renewal of our Panel which has already TM18 – Research and proved a very cost effective method of consultation. Consultation We also make use of range of means to obtain feedback from customers including customer panels, TM36 - Example of service satisfaction surveys and mystery shoppers. Customer Panel Our CPA Improvement Plan identified a need to improve performance of all satisfaction BVPIs and Feedback higher priority non-satisfaction performance indicators not in the top quartile. Based on in-depth TM37 - CPA statistical assessments of our satisfaction BVPI results and regular monitoring of our non- Improvement Plan satisfaction BVPIs, our Corporate Management Team agreed an action plan to ensure our excellent level of performance is maintained and improved. TM38 - Report on Residents’ Satisfaction Our corporate complaints system has been updated in line with good practice guidance from the Survey March 05 Local Government Ombudsman. Along with forthcoming changes to our approach to managing customer contacts, this has the potential to provide better responses to individual complainants and, TM39 - BVPI through analyses of patterns of contacts and preventative measures, to reduce the incidence of Improvement Plan similar complaints in the future. Report We have an impressive track record in terms of the low number of complaints made to the Local TM40 - New Public and Government Ombudsman. Fewer complaints were made about us in 2004/05 than in the previous Internal Complaints year and we received the fewest number of complaints in the whole of Kent. Significantly, there Documents were no findings of maladministration against this council for the fourteenth year in succession. The Council seeks to avoid any necessary costs. For example, a procedure is in place to allow Members to receive advice from the Chief Solicitor on the potential for costs being awarded against the Council in circumstances where Members are minded not to follow officers’ recommendations to approve planning applications. This allows Members to take properly informed planning decisions and reduces the potential for the award of substantial costs against us. Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 13 5.2.1 How does the council monitor and review value for money? Reference to evidence source Progress in achieving the current year’s key and service priorities is reviewed by our Corporate TM41 - Priorities: Half- Management Team at the half-year stage. Section Performance Plans are reviewed within Services Year Report Template during the financial year. We also rigorously monitor BVPI, and priority LPI, performance against targets, compared with other local authorities and direction of travel. Quarterly reports are presented to our Corporate Management Team, where under-performance is challenged and corrective action is TM42 – Example of initiated, followed by reports to Cabinet. Our overall achievement of key and service priorities, along Quarterly PI reports to with their associated improvement actions, BVPI targets and priority LPI targets, are reviewed at year MT/Cabinet end by our Corporate Management Team and Cabinet via our Corporate Performance Plan, which TM43 - CPP Report to also serves as an annual report for the year. Cabinet Our budget review process embraces value for money considerations at each key stage. Budget holders are given initial financial guidance via Service Management Teams. Clear limits are set TM4 - Budget Guidance regarding budget growth. In the light of budget monitoring, managers review budgets for the current to Service Managers financial year and suggest budgets for the coming financial year in line with budget guidance. Significant areas of growth have to be identified and justified by an assessment of the benefits. Annual budgets are also compared to outturn figures from the previous year and amended accordingly. The Corporate Management Team critically assesses draft service budgets prior to them being presented to Finance and Property Advisory Board. Members monitor and review estimated expenditure against planned service enhancements and external pressures for growth. Reviews of TM44 - Draft Estimate fees and charges are reported to the relevant Advisory Board. Policy and Best Value Committee and Budget Papers to critically assesses overall planned expenditure prior to making final recommendations to the Cabinet. Policy and Best Value The budget setting process involves: Committee - comparison of proposed spending against the objectives of the MTFS - consideration of the Council’s key priorities - feedback from public consultation - an assessment of reviewed fees and charges - monitoring of budget pressures and their justification Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 14 - review of capital plan schemes and any revenue implications - Government grant settlement - review of the assumptions set out in the Council’s Treasury Management Statement and Annual TM45 - Treasury Investment Strategy Management Statement In overall terms, the budget process enables budget holders, Corporate Management Team and and Annual Investment Members to review planned activities and service improvements against proposed expenditure to Strategy ensure value for money is obtained when the Council Tax is set. With regard to Capital Plan projects, a post project review process has been established to assess whether projects have delivered the anticipated value for money benefits. Our approach to asset management also enables us to manage value for money issues. We set aside funding for maintenance works to avoid any unnecessary backlog and to maintain the quality of our facilities to meet customer needs. In addition, we seek to rationalise our asset base where we judge a property disposal would provide better value for money than the rental income received. Other areas where additional budget provision was provided in 2005/6 to enhance local services that are valued by local residents were: - additional spending on crime and disorder to tackle anti-social behaviour - revenue costs associated with the operation of the Leybourne Lakes Country Park, a major recreational facility for the north of the Borough - increased spending on youth play and development - increased costs related to the re-tender of street cleansing and recycling contracts - consideration of opportunities for partnership funding. For 2006/7, we will be establishing a programme of efficiency reviews as part of our BVR programme. The objective is to look for alternative methods of service delivery that maintain existing standards at lower cost or raise standards at no increased cost. Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 15 5.2.2 How well has the council improved value for money and achieved efficiency gains over the Reference to evidence last three years? source Our Annual Efficiency Statement for 2004/05 identified a £77,540 of gains of which £11,520 were TM46 - Efficiency cashable. Statement More telling, however, is that, over the last three year period (02/03 to 05/06), our total service cost per head of population has increased by only 7.8% (£121.73 to £131.26) compared to average increases for all Kent districts of 20% and for all districts (national) of 19.7% over the same period. As part of our annual budget setting process, we seek to offset increases in costs as much as possible by identifying efficiency savings and by maximising income from fees and grants. Between 03/04 and 05/06, we have been able to identify annual gains totalling £1.34M which have been used to offset increases in costs totalling £1.4M. This prudent approach has thus enabled us to keep Council Tax increases to reasonable levels and to maintain our financial reserves in accordance with the MTFS. Over the last three years, we have been able to achieve better value for money outcomes via a wide range of measures which have included: - capital investments to secure revenue streams - leverage of external funding to support key projects and services - effective partnership working and joint commissioning - improved productivity: achieving increased outputs from similar or reduced input - proactive management practices eg sickness absences - innovation in service delivery whilst avoiding additional costs - use of a mixed economy to obtain expertise - highly effective performance management Examples of the above measures are set out in the background paper. Obtaining external funding enables us to achieve more than we could do with just our own resources. TM51 – Background To achieve value for money, however, we have targeted our bids for external funding where this would Paper – Examples of support key projects and meet community priorities. As we are not within an area where substantial Measures to Secure Value European or national funding streams are generally available, we only expend time and resources on for Money bidding for funds where we have a good chance of success. Over the past 3 years, we have obtained: Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 16 • funding of up to £947K, obtained from DEFRA, the Environment Agency, local Drainage Board and Kent County Council to tackle land drainage improvements at East Peckham • a £100K contribution to the Council’s green waste scheme, obtained from DEFRA’s waste minimisation and recycling fund, and an £85K landfill tax grant also supported this initiative • Heritage Lottery funding of £198K, provided to assist with enhancement at Tonbridge Castle • a major HLF grant of £1.8M, successfully bid for to fund countryside access/nature conservation improvements in the Medway Valley • Funding of £500K over the last two years, obtained to assist with the development of the Council’s on-line, electronic services and information • Interreg funding of £140K obtained to help provide educational and access improvements at Tonbridge Castle Gatehouse and to assist in the provision of the Tonbridge to Penshurst cycle route. • Due to improved performance, we have been successful in attracting a total of £1.15M of Planning Delivery Grant over the last three years. Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 17 5.2.3 Do procurement and other spending decisions take account of full long-term costs? Reference to evidence source The Council has a recently created a new Cabinet post for efficiency and innovation. The portfolio has been established to drive forward new initiatives whilst, at the same time, ensuring that value for money is obtained through such investment. Our Procurement Strategy and Action Plan sets out how procurement processes are managed and TM47 - Procurement improved. Value for money considerations lie at the heart of the strategy. Maidstone BC and Strategy and Action consultants, Spikes Cavell, assisted us with its development as this provided a cost-effective means Plan to obtain procurement expertise. The action plan strikes a balance between cost efficiencies and more effective working. For example, it requires a reduction in the number of suppliers leading to a more efficient procurement process and an introduction of e-enabled ordering, requisitioning and invoicing. It also recognises that effective procurement can help stimulate local markets and assist both the local economy and the wider community by doing more to involve local SMEs and voluntary sector bodies in supplying goods and services. The recent re-tendering of the refuse and recycling contract also involved the provision of advice and assistance from Maidstone Borough’s procurement unit. Using their advice, we were able, by TM26 – Background extending the time period and amalgamating key elements of the contract, to limit the potential Paper – Refuse increase in costs. Contract We are embarking on the competitive procurement of a new CRM system (using the GCAT TM27 – Background process) to improve customer contacts. The possible joint purchase of software with the adjoining Paper – local authorities of Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells is being explored to seek cost savings. Customer Contact We are actively involved in the Kent Buying Consortium enabling goods and services to be obtained Strategy at a lower cost through county-wide negotiated supplier contracts. We purchase mobile phones and office equipment via this means. We also purchase our energy from the Laser energy supply consortium to save costs. TM48 - Kent We are an active member of the Kent Connects partnership and this has generated £4M of external Connects – funding for joint projects and services relating to ICT and e-Government. The partnership has Celebrating 2 Years demonstrated value for money via: of Success Use of Resources: Value for money self-assessment │ 18 (a) Joint purchases e.g. data infrastructure linking all councils and linking some offices within council areas (b) Joint services e.g. internet access and development of a Kent Website Portal. (c) Joint projects e.g. a number of ODPM e-Government Priority Outcomes have been achieved via partnership projects. (d) Provision of specialist skills such as a security officer which partners could not sustain individually. (e) Sharing of expertise, knowledge and good practice between partners. TM50 – Priority We work in partnership to procure projects and bid for external funding. For example, via the West Communities Study Kent Partnership, the local LSP, partners have obtained funding from SEEDA for studies into homeworking and for the provision of a visitor destination management system. Housing Corporation funding has been obtained to investigate essential worker housing. LSP partners have invested resources to study priority communities across West Kent which will provide a platform for external funding bids to support regeneration initiatives.
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