Corporate Peer Review
Blaenau Gwent County
Borough Council
Feedback to CMT & Executive
19th July 2013
Thank you!
Context
Blaenau Gwent faces a number of
challenges:
• Improvement issues:
– education
– corporate
• Impact of benefits cuts
• Financial Pressures
What you asked us to do
To provide the leadership with:
• Assurance that what you are doing is
making a difference; and
• Anything else you could/should be doing
This is not an inspection, this is
about helping you to improve
Already a lot going on…
• Good progress around internal improvement
activities and initiatives
• PwC and Peopletoo
• Wales Audit Office
• Estyn
• We have sought to avoid duplication, add value
and, in particular, consider how the council is
responding to emerging challenges, notably the
increasing financial pressures for 2014-15
onwards
What we have done
Extensive examination of council documentation
Interviews and workshops with over 60 people:
•
•
•
•
•
•
9 Executive Members
19 Non-Executive Members
19 Officers
4 Union Representatives
6 representatives from Local/Regional Partners
8 representatives from National Partners
• Limited time on site: distil and reflect back messages
we heard from members, staff and partners
What we will do
• Feedback Session (today)
• Written Report in 4 weeks
• Ongoing advice and support where
appropriate and requested – individually
or corporately
Summary
• ‘English-style cuts’ – recent and revised
financial projections of a possible 4% cut in
2014-15 and 2015-16 are a game-changer.
• These are not of the council’s making but
compound the council’s existing challenges.
• Disproportionate effect on council given
reliance on RSG, low reserves and council is
the major employer in the area
• The worst case scenario is a possibility
e.g. Detroit
Summary
The immediate priorities for the council therefore are:
1.To identify, risk assess, deliver and secure up to
£10 million budget savings for the financial year
2014-15; and
2.To improve educational outcomes as quickly as
possible
• For the moment, all other priorities are secondary.
• The 2 key priorities need to be addressed in order for
Blaenau Gwent to survive into the next financial year
and, in turn, provide some foundations to place the
council on a more sustainable footing into the future.
Summary
In order to achieve those 2 key priorities, the corporate and
political leadership need to demonstrate:
•
•
•
1.
2.
Clarity of vision and delivery of outcomes
Strong leadership and good governance
Meaningful engagement with communities and partners
Effective resource, risk and performance management
Effective use of your good staff
Within each, we have identified:
•
•
•
Opportunities
Risks
Actions
1. Vision and Outcomes
Opportunities
•
•
•
•
Single Integrated Plan has set broad authoritywide vision
‘Coalition for Change’ offers a new approach,
renewed energy and focus…
Some very good services achieving positive
outcomes, for example planning, regeneration and
social services
Ambition and confidence around the Racetrack
and the Works
1. Vision and Outcomes
Risks
•
•
•
•
Overarching vision not communicated consistently
Priorities therefore are not always consistently
understood by everyone
…Coalition for Change is a recent initiative, but
awareness is mixed and communication not clear
(e.g. it’s also known as the Guiding Coalition)
Vision and focus diluted by complexity and
number of initiatives and processes
1. Vision and Outcomes
Actions
•
Focus clearly on limited number of key
priorities for 2013-14: savings and
education
Clear communication and engagement strategy for
council (councillors and staff), partners and public,
focusing on:
•
–
–
–
–
What are the key priorities and why
What we are doing about them
When we are going to do them
What do we need you to do to help
2. Leadership & Governance
Opportunities
•
Recognition that significant challenges are here NOW
•
Confidence within council that leadership can deliver savings,
some confidence that tough decisions will be made…
•
Cinema seen as a seminal moment, tough political decision
taken and demonstration that new models will be considered
•
Capable and passionate individuals in both political and
professional leadership positions; interim corporate
appointments widely respected
•
Member behaviour has improved significantly and sense of
increased co-operation
•
Scrutiny on better footing and has potential to make a
difference…
•
Council receptive to external challenge, support and working
with others…
2. Leadership & Governance
Risks
•
Lack of apparent urgency about the financial challenges
•
Too much planning and process not enough or slow
implementation
•
Over-reliance on a limited number of key individuals to both
drive and deliver
•
Executive need to give more direction and shape to Executive
meeting
•
…Scrutiny not had opportunity to make effective challenge as
yet, arrangements need to be more member-led, proactive
and timely. Some question scope for call-in due to process.
Limited Executive-Scrutiny interface to date
•
Confusion around accountability and governance in education
with Commissioner role
•
…Over-reliance and ‘dependency’ on external challenge and
support
2. Leadership & Governance
Actions
•
•
•
•
Take urgent action now regarding financial
decision-making e.g. implement already
identified savings
Ongoing and regular review of savings progress
e.g. establish ‘Savings’ Sub-Committee of
Executive – this could have independent
external/WLGA challenge
Ensure ‘Coalition for Change’ has clear accountability
and governance arrangements
Move from interim to permanent arrangements as soon
as possible to provide continuity and stability and ensure
no long term risk to social services
2. Leadership & Governance
Actions
•
•
•
•
Identify, develop and support internal talent as part
of succession planning and also look externally
where necessary
Implement the annual review element of
Performance Coaching process for Chief Executive
and all CMT: providing clarity on key objectives,
targets and personal development/support needs
Review format of Executive meetings and reassert
member lead role in council meetings
Implement recommendations of (ongoing) internal
evaluation of scrutiny
3. Engaging with
Communities and Partners
Opportunities
•
Council generally regarded as a good local partner
–
–
•
•
Good consultation around SIP
Council does not try to dominate, but facilitates
partnership
‘Leading collaborative agenda’ - clear commitment
to collaboration, numerous examples of council not
only exploring but delivering collaborative ventures
Cinema decision has redefined relationship with the
community
3. Engaging with
Communities and Partners
Risks
• LSB appears to focus more on strategy
rather than sharing and developing joint
plans for savings
• Business engaged in projects but lack of
engagement in strategic vision and LSB
• Some collaborative ventures have not
progressed (social services – a cause of
some internal tension) or are being
reviewed (education)
3. Engaging with
Communities and Partners
Actions
• LSB should focus on sharing and, where
possible, developing joint plans for savings
and/or service reconfiguration
• Business sector approached to be lead partner in
LSB
4. Resource, Risk and
Performance Management
Opportunities
• Council itself can and has identified a number of
opportunities for significant savings
• Sense that there is a bottom-up process where
teams actively identify potential savings
• Confidence within council that PwC work will
identify potential savings and may lead to a more
strategic and sustainable operating model for
council in future…
• Confidence in EAS arrangements
• Widespread confidence that new corporate
processes (such as risk management, performance
management and self evaluation) are showing signs
of improvement
4. Resource, Risk and
Performance Management
Risks
• Unprecedented risk in terms of finance –
‘unsustainable’ overspending, limited reserves
and projected savings of £4.1m in 2014-15 are
now estimated at £6m-£10m.
• Lack of apparent urgency and delay around
managing overspend and implementing
identified savings
• Double-whammy: decisions delay just as
challenge doubles in size
• Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) hasn’t been
updated to reflect new assumptions e.g.
Corporate Overview and Scrutiny papers
4. Resource, Risk and
Performance Management
Risks
•
No apparent action plan or timeline to make savings
•
Not clear to what extent comparative benchmarking
data is used e.g. Measuring Up data
•
Risk of financial pressures arising from Tai Calon dispute
•
Some internal concern over consultants’ work
duplicating ongoing internal service review processes
•
Over-reliance on PwC work – it will identify some
savings and may develop more strategic and sustainable
‘operating model’ for council, but risk that the new
model (Stage 3) is unlikely to be implementable or at
least make a significant impact for 2014-15
4. Resource, Risk and
Performance Management
Action
•
•
•
•
•
Immediately produce an action plan and
timeline for achieving savings
Implement already identified savings
immediately
Update MTFP with latest assumptions, with
clearer links to workforce development plan,
asset management plan and corporate
improvement plan
Ongoing and regular review of savings
progress e.g. establish ‘Savings’ SubCommittee of Executive
Plan for implications of PwC proposals – speak to
councils where this has been implemented e.g.
Coventry
5. Organisation and People
Opportunities
• Committed and enthusiastic workforce
• Standardising good practice across departments
• Confidence in and energy from interim
arrangements…
• Internal silos less prevalent - increased corporate
team dynamic, through mechanisms such as
corporate improvement network
• Council regarded as a good employer
• Constructive relationship with unions
• Progress being made on internal savings e.g.
canteen and essential car user allowance
5. Organisation and People
Risks
•
•
•

Communication and information internally and externally
– council doesn’t sell itself well
Lack of confidence displayed by some people
Perception of ‘no redundancies’ approach seen by some
as barrier to progress as is the generosity of redundancy
package
Over-reliance on key individuals, 2 key issues:
 Overstretch and succession; and
 If they are the wrong people they can have a
disproportionate impact in hindering progress
5. Organisation and People
Risks




Corporate interim arrangements are short-term and also
place a knock-on risk to social services
Plans and structures are being developed, but Newport
withdrawal from education could present a risk
HR capacity – mixed views : although plan is being
produced for HR support to savings process, not all are
confident that capacity and skills there.
Need for HR to re-focus away from current process
5. Organisation and People
Actions
•
•
•
•
Move from interim to permanent
corporate arrangements as soon as
possible
Ensure HR capacity is ready for potential
challenge of changes ahead
Identify, develop and support internal talent as
part of succession planning
Implement recommendations of T&F Group
Review of Communications and coordinate
communications and engagement resources
effectively
Conclusion
What is needed:
• Leadership
• Decisiveness
• Immediate Action
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