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Scrutiny Working in Partnership Task and Finish Review Conclusions

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                                                                               APPENDIX J

Scrutiny Working in Partnership Task and Finish Review Conclusions

Review Chairman:       Councillor Rupert Cox
Lead Officer:          Joanna Gale, Scrutiny Manager
Contact Details:       Joanna.gale@southsomerset.gov.uk or (01935) 462077


Purpose of the Report

To present for consideration the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee Working in
Partnership Task and Finish review. The review was set up to establish if the proposal to
work in partnership with East Devon District Council (EDDC) is the best option for SSDC
and its community – In response to Working in Partnership Report that was considered at
Full Council on 10th December 2009.

The Way Forward/ Recommendations

The Task and Finish Group supports the principles of the proposal to work jointly
with East Devon District Council for the next 4 years as is proposed.

The group would recommend that the following areas of concern be addressed:

     1. Need for both authorities to develop a common goal – not just saving money
     2. The Joint Integration Committee (JIC) become familiar with the success achieved
        by other authorities working in partnership in relation to value for money and
        services provided.
     3. The Protocol and Section 113 agreement documents should be clear and robust
        and open to scrutiny.
     4. A communication plan should be developed prior to the commencement of the
        partnering arrangement.
     5. The Risk Assessment should be monitored and reviewed.
     6. The Scrutiny Task and Finish review group continue to review proposals as the
        partnership working develops and work in response to the Joint Integration
        Committee. This work should be done in conjunction with the scrutiny
        arrangements at EDDC
     7. It should be the responsibility of the Audit function of both authorities to monitor:
             • Proceedings regarding each authority's governance framework to check
                that there are no clashes/impact.
             • The progress of achieving projected savings and report exceptions to the
                Scrutiny Committee.

     Additionally……

     8. Both authorities need to have an imaginative approach to identify further savings.
     9. Members and staff of all levels should be encouraged to make suggestions on how
         future savings could be made by either closer working with EDDC or managing our
         existing discretionary services more efficiently.
     10. Members must be considerate to staff throughout the transitional process. Staff
         morale should be of paramount importance.
     11. A meeting should be arranged to give Members of both authorities an opportunity
         to meet in a relaxed and informal environment to ‘break the ice’. Further meetings




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          may feature presentations by the JIC on progress or informal discussions of future
          budget savings or shared services.

Background

The group is made up of Councillors Sue Steele, Martin Wale, John Calvert, Derek
Yeomans, Angie Singleton, Jo Roundell Greene & Rupert Cox (Chairman).

Officers attending the group included Donna Parham – Assistant Director (Finance and
Corporate), Ian Clarke – Assistant Director (Legal and Corporate) Gary Russ –
Procurement and Risk Manager, Mike Holliday – Human Resource Manager and Jo Gale
– Scrutiny Manager.

The group has met on three occasions and gathered information and comment from;
    • The CEO and Leader – including the Risk Assessment; briefing information
       document and options email
    • Section 151 Officer, Monitoring Officer; HR Manager and Procurement & Risk
       Manager – obtaining evidence on the financial position and options; constitutional
       issues and the creation of the Section 113 document; opportunities for greater
       savings via joint procurement and systems
    • Telephone research of Joint working authorities; Vale of White Horse and South
       Oxfordshire and West Oxfordshire and Cotswold District has been carried out by
       Cllrs Sue Steele and Jo Roundell Greene.
    • Cllr Sue Steele and Rupert Cox, with Jo Gale, attended EDDC to meet other
       Scrutiny Members on 1st February.
    • Some members not on the group have also contributed their views by telephone,
       email and text
    • Informal Political Party discussions have also taken place which have been
       reported back to the Task and Finish review group

Any recommendations agreed by the Committee will form part of the Working in
Partnership report for Full Council on 25th February.

The Options Available:

a) Proceed to make the required savings independently – An estimated two million of
   savings need to be found for the 2011/12 budget to balance - the exact amount of
   savings needed will not be known until after the election, but this figure could be as
   high as £4.3m if grant is cut by 20%.

     This option was discounted; the savings are of such a large scale it would equate to
     the loss of non-statutory services and a reduction in staff that would adversely affect
     their delivery. This would result in South Somerset offering fewer services and lower
     service standards.

b) Look to work in partnership – For the last 6 months the Leadership of SSDC has
   been looking at a variety of partnering options with both Somerset and non-Somerset
   partners. Since the demise of the Pioneer Somerset programme it has become not
   only obvious, but of paramount importance that alternative arrangements be
   considered.

     Discussions with East Devon DC have been ongoing for a number of months and they
     have become very willing partners keen to not only make financial savings but to also
     share best practice between both authorities.



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Process

To ensure that the Task and Finish review group’s work remained focussed, they used the
Improvement and Development Agency – “Shared Chief Executives and Joint
Management - a model for the future?” publication, to evaluate the proposed partnership
and to consider a checklist of key factors, which need to be in place, to ensure two
councils, can share a management team effectively. The group have then identified
additional issues that they felt should be considered to assist them in making appropriate
recommendations.

1.        Ensure no large cultural differences

It is considered that ideal partners should have Political stability and while SSDC (Lib
Dem) and EDDC (Cons) are led by opposing political parties, they are both “politically
stable” due to the historical, present and likely future ruling group majorities.

Having met with members from East Devon it is apparent that while there might be party
political differences in the two authorities, fundamentally we all want what is best for our
residents - value for money and quality services. It should be noted that political
differences may become more apparent the further we embark on service integration, but
this will be for the CEO to manage in conjunction, with the respective Council Leaders at
the time.

Cross county boundaries and opposing political stability will ensure district sovereignty
remains, which is desired by Members from both authorities.

2.        There must be similarities in the areas covered by the council
3.        The communities need to have some similarities

There are many similarities between East Devon & South Somerset.
       • Very similar in size and populations
       • Predominantly rural communities with Market Town settlements
       • Share the A303 & A30
       • Share the Waterloo rail line
The only major differences are the Coast in East Devon with the associated large tourism
sector and the larger scale industrial and manufacturing activity in South Somerset.

Both authorities’ corporate plans identify similar issues for their communities.

4.        Both councils must trust the Chief Executive

The recruitment process of the Chief Executive should not be taken for granted just
because there is one candidate. The interview should be thorough and any areas of
concern expressed, by either authority, should be addressed before a formal appointment
is made.

The protocol and associated Section 113 agreement must be robust in protecting the
interests of both councils. Issues that have arisen include managing the risks around joint
performance monitoring, long-term sick and disciplinary procedures.

The CEO must be allowed to operate on a much more strategic level than under “normal”
district council management, but he must also maintain strong communication with
Members and Staff in each authority.




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5.        There needs to be clear and well understood governance

Having examined the terms of reference for the Joint Integration Committee it is clear the
work of this committee is imperative to the success of joint working. Following discussions
with the Monitoring Officer it is apparent that this Committee will be in place for the
foreseeable future (agreement will be in place until 2014) so those Members asked to
contribute to the Committee should be aware of their obligations and it may be, depending
on the level of commitment and responsibility bestowed upon them, that a Special
Responsibility Allowance be considered by the independent remuneration panel of each
authority.

The Section 113 agreement underpins the protocol and must cover performance
monitoring of the shared Chief Executive.

The detail of the exit strategies is unclear at this time and this should form a key element
of the Section 113 agreement.

There is a concern that the process of agreeing amendments could thwart the pace of
integration as the Terms of Reference states:

The committee will make recommendations to each council on adoption of the strategy
and action plan. The committee will make any consequential recommendations to either
the Executives or Full Council meetings of both councils where appropriate.

Which is it - Executive or Full Council? The issue here is that if it is regarded that the pace
of change is the key to making savings quickly, the “referring back for approval” procedure
should not be excessively cumbersome.

6.        Politicians must be able to trust and work with each other

Having spoken with members from other authorities and looked at the success that
authorities have achieved working in partnership, including differing political alliances, it is
possible to develop a culture of effective, collective working where there is a common
ambition.

There is a weakness in that there is not a common goal or joint vision that aims to achieve
more than just savings.

Staffordshire Moorland District Council and High Peak Borough Council vision is “is to
establish a shared approach to the delivery of key services that will improve the
quality of people’s lives in the two authorities and deliver greater value for money”.

From a very positive perspective, it is clear that both Executives are keen to work together
and from the early discussions with non-Executive Members, it is apparent that both sets
of Members see advantages of meeting up and sharing experiences.

However research of other authorities suggests that in reality there is very little contact
between non-Executive Members of each area, and some contacts suggests that life has
not changed for them.

The Task and Finish Group would suggest that contrary to this view, we should consider
making opportunities available for Members to meet, if for no other purpose than to put
faces to names and to understand each others cultures a little better.




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Other Significant Issues

Additional savings required

The Task and Finish Group have done some benchmarking work and agree the potential
identified savings are realistic, however the savings that could be generated as a result
from working in partnership with East Devon are not enough.

It is noted that there could still be a potential shortfall of approximately £1.4 million in the
2011/12 budget should SSDC only embark on the shared management proposals. It is
vital that Members consider the costs for all services and think strategically to propose
further savings suggestions. Big decisions will need to be made regarding discretionary
budgets especially if Government imposes grant cuts.

Furthermore, joint procurement opportunities should be considered especially in areas
such as IT systems, where additional operational savings will be made and where existing
contracts are nearing break clauses

We would suggest that the joint working arrangements will be able to manage the “lean
structure” option proposed when compared to other benchmarked authorities. The size of
population should not be the catalyst for deciding the number of managers required, but
the tasks to be undertaken.

Conversely there have been concerns expressed that no job should become too big for
one individual, as this could trigger overload and stress which would ultimately prejudice
the cost saving process and affect staff morale (see below).

Additional areas of concern to be addressed

     1. Staff morale. While it is recognised that the sooner the process starts, the sooner
        that savings can be found, it must be acknowledged that our staff have in the last 2
        years gone through Job Evaluation, the restructure and are now faced with another
        major change. While some will embrace the opportunities that the proposal
        provides, others will not be as enthusiastic. The other issue that needs to be
        articulated very clearly is “who is in charge” and this becomes most pertinent to
        SSDC staff should the CEO choose to maintain his base in Sidmouth.

     2. Geography. The distance between the main administrative centres could reduce
        the flexibility in the integration of Services, particularly in relation to administrative
        staff on lower grades. The section 151 Officer has provided re-assurance that the
        IT-infrastructure is being looked at to reduce the need for travel and enable good
        communication.

     3. Communication and Transparency. Members and Staff in both authorities need
        to be kept fully informed of progress at the earliest possible time. This has been
        regarded as a weakness in South Somerset and for reasons set out in 1 (above)
        there must be a clear communication plan, developed prior to the partnership
        commencing. Members and Staff need to be aware who takes responsibility for
        each site (Brympton Way or Sidmouth) in the CEO’s absence.

     4. Pace is accepted as important, but it’s better to get it right first time and then aim
        high to gain maximum benefit. The Task and Finish Group recognises that if we
        are going to do this, we should fully embrace it.




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           Some SSDC members have questioned the need to accelerate the process when
           our budget for 2010/11 is balanced. EDDC are not quite so fortunate and have to
           make significant savings for 2010/11, so need to partner with another authority
           sooner rather than later. If SSDC do not partner with EDDC now, the opportunity
           will pass and we run the risk of not finding a suitable partner.

           The benefit to SSDC of proceeding at this time is there are savings to be made
           associated with the voluntary redundancy of the CEO in this financial year and
           SSDC can ‘bank’ savings made in 2010/2011 in relation to sharing a Management
           team to contribute to the savings needed in 2011/2012.

     5. Endeavour to maintain a good level of service throughout any changes. The
        new CEO and management team will need to manage change carefully, as both
        sets of Members are keen that services will be maintained at the present high
        levels. If service managers are shared, then operational processes need to be put
        in place so that the next tier of staff are fully aware lines of management and
        responsibility

     6. Transparency on all financial implications. It is imperative that regular
        monitoring of both authorities financial circumstances is undertaken. Are the
        savings being made and to time? How are the costs associated with the change
        (Voluntary Redundancy and Early Retirement) being managed? How quickly will
        these costs be written off?

           Members on both sides will be putting their trust in their own leadership more than
           ever before, so it is vital that Leaders respect that position and remain open and
           transparent on all financial matters

     7. Devon Unitary bid – we will know if Unitary is likely during the first phase of joint
        working but are unsure what the plan is if this were to happen. The risk
        assessment appears to have underestimated the consequences, so the Section
        113 needs to be much clearer than the draft Protocol as to how the risk will be
        managed.

     As South Somerset will have lost its’ CEO, and possibly other Officers, as well as part
     of the budget to fund them, there needs to be clear procedure for managing the
     financial implications associated with Unitary Authority for Devon – or part of.

     The actual risk is greater for EDDC, but the consequences are significant for South
     Somerset.

Background Papers:
Working in Partnership – Full Council 10th December 2009
Improvement and Development Agency – the lessons
Improvement and Development Agency – a model for the future?
Partnering options considered previously by leader – Cllr. Tim Carroll
Budget/Formula Grant scenarios
SWOT analysis compiled by Task and Finish Group 13 January 2010
A Joint CEO and Partnering with East Devon District Council, decisions and timing by
Chief Executive – Phil Dolan
Risk Assessment – Partnering arrangements with East Devon District Council
Comments from other authorities working in partnership
Benchmarking proposed structure with other authorities working in partnership
East Devon District Council – what we are good at and not so good at
Partnership Working with East Devon District Council – DX 4th February 2010


Meeting: C06A: 09:10                          36                                  Date: 25.02.10

				
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