CABINET Agenda Item: 8

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CABINET Agenda Item: 8

  1. 1. CABINET Agenda Item: 8 Ward: All Wards Portfolio: Corporate Finance and Resources FROM: Councillors Harvey Siggs, Gus Halfhide, John Parham, and Date: 22nd April 2008 Director – Corporate Finance and Resources SUBJECT: Proposed Partnership with Somerset County Council for the provision of support for Performance Management, Risk Management, Value for Money, Data Quality, and Asset Management This Report proposes a partnership with Somerset County Council (SCC) for the provision of support in the following key areas: o Performance Management o Risk Management o Value for Money o Data Quality Summary: o Strategic Asset Management Staff vacancies, and ever increasing demands in these areas, has led the Council re-consider how these services are best provided in the future. Following discussions with SCC, Officers are confident that the proposed partnership offers the best way forward, whilst at the same time being in the spirit of the Pioneer Somerset agenda for promoting enhanced two tier working across Somerset. Recommendation: Cabinet are recommended to: a) Approve ‘in principle’ the establishment of a partnership with Somerset County Council for the provision of support in the areas of Performance Management, Risk Management, Value for Money, Data Quality and Strategic Asset Management. b) Delegate authority to the Director of Corporate Finance and Resources, in consultation with the Leader of the Council, the Portfolio Holder for Finance and the Portfolio Holder for Asset Management, to agree the details of the Partnership, on the basis that it is delivered within current budgets. 1
  2. 2. Should this Partnership go ahead it will link indirectly with all of the Council’s Priorities and directly with the Priority of Value for Links to Priorities: Money, where Officers are confident that a better value service can be achieved for the same cost. Impact on Service Should this Partnership go ahead it will link directly or indirectly Plans: with all Service Plans. This Report seeks ‘in principle’ support for the establishment of a partnership with SCC. At present the Service Level Agreements have not been agreed and therefore the proposal does not contain any budgetary details at this time. However, indicative discussions suggest that the partnership can Financial be delivered within the existing budgets for the services under Implications: consideration. Reflecting the current lack of budgetary information, the Recommendation to this Report is to delegate authority to agree the details of the partnership, to the appropriate Director in consultation with the relevant Portfolio Holders, including the Portfolio Holder for Finance. The Council will be required to properly consider the legal implications around procurement. However this consideration will also need to reflect the fact that this proposal is entirely in line Legal with the Government’s shared services agenda, and the principles Implications: of Pioneer Somerset. Officers are currently working on this, and it will clearly be taken into consideration before any formal decision is taken. Risk Assessment: The proposed partnership with SCC will significantly mitigate the risks that Mendip has in relation to the provision of advice and support to Members and Officers on the range of services under consideration. As a District Council, Mendip does not have access to the skills and knowledge that these areas now require, and this potentially has a detrimental impact on a wide range of issues, including our annual Use of Resources assessment. A partnership with SCC will allow Mendip to have access to the wide range of skills required and for the necessary support to be given to Members and Officers as necessary. In the event that the Council chooses not to enter into the proposed partnership then an alternative means of providing these services would be required. Options have been considered, and are referred to in the Report, but no other option is considered to be able to provide the Council with the resilience, expertise and level of support that is being sought. 2
  3. 3. In addition, an arrangement outside of a partnership with one of the Somerset authorities would not be in the spirit of enhanced two tier working promoted by Pioneer Somerset. Scrutiny Board Not applicable Recommendation: 1. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND Cabinet will be aware that in the period leading up to, and post, the decision on potential local government reorganisation within Somerset, a number of key officers left Mendip’s employment. Of these, two positions in particular have given the opportunity for the Council to reflect upon how best these functions should be provided in the future, particularly in the context of Pioneer Somerset and the drive for improved two tier working across Somerset. The two posts in question are those of; o Performance Management Officer (a post which also took the lead on much of the risk management processes within the Council, as well as managing Data Quality and having an input into Value for Money), and o Strategic Asset Manager 2. OPTIONS CONSIDERED Both of these posts are very important to the Council, in terms of the functions they deliver, however their method of delivery is open to some debate and consideration. It is for this reason that the decision was taken to hold further recruitment until such time as other options had been considered. a) Performance Management With respect to Performance Management, and the ancillary functions included within the role, the options for future delivery are essentially as follows: Option 1: To continue to appoint to the post Option 2: To delete the role on the basis that performance management, risk management, etc., is now embedded within the organisation Option 3: To ‘buy in’ the necessary level of expertise from Consultants Option 4: To enter into a partnership arrangement with another authority to provide support as necessary In terms of Option 1, whilst we are confident that we could appoint to the post, we are less than confident that we could recruit an Officer with the necessary level and/or suite of skills that are required. It is therefore likely that we would need to further support the role through the use of Consultants. 3
  4. 4. With respect to Option 2, this would be an exceptionally high risk strategy for the Council to adopt. To date, the Council has not fully embedded Performance Management, Risk Management and Data Quality (all are elements of the role) within the organisation. This is a matter that has been commented on by both the Audit Commission and our own external auditors, Grant Thornton. In turn, this has been, in part, reflected in the less that favourable Use of Resources judgement that the Council received. Option 3 is valid to consider but would undoubtedly be costly. It is unlikely that we could engage one Consultant with all the required skills and therefore there is a risk that these important linked processes would infact not be linked. In addition, unless engaged on an almost full time basis (and hence increased cost), than the use of a Consultant is unlikely to be able to provide the level of support required from Officers, and indeed Members. Option 4 is attractive from the point of view that it is likely to be more cost effective than the use of a Consultant. In addition, and subject to the appointment of a chosen partner, it is both likely to deliver the full range of functions required, whilst at the same time ensuing that the necessary level of support is available to Council Members and Officers. It also clearly supports the Pioneer Somerset principle. b) Strategic Asset Management As with the aforementioned post, there are again options available for the provision of strategic asset management advice to the Council. These are again, as follows: Option A: To continue to appoint to the post Option B: To delete the role Option C: To ‘buy in’ the necessary level of expertise from Consultants Option D: To enter into a partnership arrangement with another authority to provide support as necessary With respect to Option A, the Council has an Asset Register of circa £20m (relatively small in comparison with other similar sized authorities) comprising primarily the Council Offices, Car Parks and Leisure Centres (the latter two being currently managed outside of this role). In this context, whilst we could most likely recruit to the position, it begs the question as to whether the Council still requires a full time capability in this area of work? The position was developed following the LSVT of the Council’s housing stock, thus recognising the need to take a strategic view of the Council’s remaining assets. The position is now clearer with respect to this, and the need for a full time post is therefore debatable. Option B is again considered to be a high risk strategy as the Council still clearly holds significant assets on which, from time to time, strategic advice is required. Whilst aspects of the role could potentially be absorbed into other similar roles, this would leave the Council very vulnerable in respect of strategic advice. Option C is certainly an option that could be considered, and indeed the Council already uses this avenue in respect of strategic asset management advice when considering regeneration proposals involving a Council asset (eg a car park). However, in the context and spirit of Somerset Pioneer, this may not be the most appropriate way forward for the Council. 4
  5. 5. With respect to Option D, this is clearly a viable method of service delivery. Irrespective of the chosen partner, all local authorities do, to a greater or lesser extent, manage a portfolio of assets, and therefore the knowledge base and skills required are not that dissimilar. The question is probably whether the partner should be a District Council or a County Council. In this regard, whilst the similarity of assets would be greater with a District Council, the access to a wider range of skills and knowledge is likely to be greater with a County Council by virtue of the sheer size of the respective asset portfolios. 3. PROPOSED PARTNERSHIP WITH SOMERSET COUNTY COUNCIL On the basis of a consideration of the Options identified above, some exploratory discussions were held with Somerset County Council, which have subsequently led to a proposal being submitted (attached as Appendix A). A partnership with Somerset County Council (SCC) has particular attractions, as briefly identified below: o Mendip has a proven track record of working effectively in partnership with SCC, and has done so for many years in areas such as Personnel, Health and Safety, and Finance o SCC has proven ability and capability in the areas under discussion, as demonstrated through their own Use of Resources judgements, and indeed other audit / inspection activity o SCC have access to a wide range of skills and knowledge covering the range of services under discussion, that most probably goes beyond that which the Council could reasonably hope to achieve on its own The draft proposal attached as Appendix A is clearly still only in a development stage. However, before pursuing this proposal further, it would be beneficial if Cabinet could provide a steer on the principle of whether or not the suggested way forward is acceptable. The draft proposal identifies areas of work within the following key areas: o Performance Management o Risk Management o Value for Money o Data Quality o Strategic Asset Management It will clearly be necessary to do further work in refining the proposal to ensure that it properly reflects the needs of Mendip, and this will take time. The purpose therefore in bringing the proposal to Cabinet at this time is to consider an ‘in principle’ decision which would then direct Officers to complete the partnership and agree the necessary terms and conditions. The draft proposal has been considered by Corporate Management Team (CMT) who fully support it. That said, it is acknowledged that there remains much for Mendip to do in order to achieve the value that the proposed partnership is intended to achieve, and that this will require both leadership and management from CMT and Senior Managers. 5
  6. 6. Cabinet will note that at present, the proposal does not contain any budgetary figures. Whilst this is obviously a significant omission, these can only be properly identified once the ‘package’ of services has been agreed and the Service Level Agreements drafted and agreed. However, discussions with Officers from SCC indicate that the likely budgetary requirements will be within the current budget available to Mendip having regard to the posts referred to above and the necessary supporting budgets available. That is, Officers are confident that the partnership can be delivered within the current available budget. In ‘efficiency’ terms, Officers are equally confident that, as a minimum, the partnership will deliver ‘greater value for the same cost’. 4. CONCLUSION The Council has been without appropriate resource in the identified areas for some time, pending the outcome and implications of potential local government reorganisation, and a proper consideration of how these services should be best delivered to serve the Council both now and in the future, particularly having regard to Pioneer Somerset. Officers are now at a stage where a preferred way forward has been identified, that being a partnership arrangement with Somerset County Council, and Cabinet are now asked to consider and approve this ‘in principle’. Subject to this, Officers will continue to develop the proposal, and to agree the necessary Service Level Agreements, prior to formally entering the partnership later this year. 5. RECOMMENDATIONS Cabinet are recommended to: c) Approve ‘in principle’ the establishment of a partnership with Somerset County Council for the provision of support in the areas of Performance Management, Risk Management, Value for Money, Data Quality and Strategic Asset Management. d) Delegate authority to the Director of Corporate Finance and Resources, in consultation with the Leader of the Council, the Portfolio Holder for Finance and the Portfolio Holder for Asset Management, to agree the details of the Partnership, on the basis that it is delivered within current budgets. 6. REASONS FOR RECOMMENDATION The Council needs to adequately resource these keys areas of activity, and it is considered, in part in the spirit of Pioneer Somerset, that a partnership with Somerset County Council provides the most cost effective and appropriate means of securing this. Contact Officer: Stuart Brown Extension: 364 6

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