G - Making the Priorities Work
10.1 Current Issues
The initial self assessment that the Council produced in preparation for the CPA in 2002 acknowledged that, although we provide good standards of service in most areas, we can continue to improve these by developing the services and systems that support front line service delivery. Our CPA Action Plan resulting from that self assessment identified a number of corporate issues that needed to be addressed if we were to develop the capacity to make further improvements in services. This analysis was confirmed by the subsequent corporate assessment of the Council carried out as part of the CPA process and resulting in the report referred to in Section 1 of this Plan.
Our ultimate aim must be to ensure that scarce resources are focused as effectively as possible on the issues that really matter to the local community. Following the structural changes to the Council’s departments and the review of the Administration’s priorities we are now in a better position to address these corporate issues. The actions identified in the CPA Action Plan will help ensure that this happens. These have subsequently been incorporated into the review of the Council’s Medium Term Corporate Strategy and, where they have not already been addressed, will now be treated as priorities.
10.2 Our Priorities
These can be summarised as:
- Improving the effectiveness of service delivery;
- Continuing the development of consultation with the community;
- Developing medium term financial planning;
- Improving service planning and performance management;
- Developing a human resources strategy.
Progress to Date
10.3 Review of the Medium Term Corporate Strategy
We recognised the need to reduce the number of priorities identified in the original Strategy to enable attention to be focussed on a smaller number of high priority issues. As described in Section 2 this has now been done by the current Administration and the priorities have been given prominence in this Plan.
10.4 Reorganisation of service departments and pay structure
We have now fulfilled our commitment to reduce the number of service departments and reorganise them in a structure that better reflects the working relationships and priorities for services. We have also completed a major exercise to evaluate all the posts in the Council and adjust their pay gradings to reflect job responsibilities. This was an ambitious process and the effects will take several years to be fully implemented. However it means that we have a consistent and logical basis for the pay structure of our workforce that will help in career planning for current employees and the recruitment of new employees.
10.5 Service Planning and Performance Management
We already have many elements of performance management in place, including a service planning process that has been developed over recent years and staff development /appraisal systems in most Departments. We acknowledged in the CPA self assessment however that we need to make these processes more consistent across Departments.
The Council continues to strive to put consultation at the heart of its decision-making and development of services. In 2002 we established Leicestershire’s Voice, the Council’s Citizens Panel. This is a Panel of 1316 residents, broadly representative of the population of Leicestershire. Two surveys have been undertaken to date on quality of life and transportation issues.
What the Panel told us has been used to inform the County Council’s Budget for 2003/04 and the development of the countywide Community Strategy. This and the results from other recent consultations have shown that the highest public priorities are a reduction in crime and improvements to community safety, the needs of children and young people, and improved public transport. The results are also being used in the BABSI initiative to develop the Council’s Access Strategy, which will set the future direction for the delivery of services and how the public accesses them.
In March 2003 we asked the Panel about public transport and road safety. The results of this survey will be used to inform the July 2003 Local Transport Plan Annual Progress Report and the Quality of Life Indicators being developed through the Leicestershire Local Strategic Partnership.
Priorities for 2003/04 and beyond
10.7 Priority - Improving the effectiveness of service delivery
Continuing to make improvements to our service planning will help to improve our efficiency and focus our efforts on priorities. In addition to these general improvements we have proposed, as part of our PSA, a package of improvements based on Best Value Performance Indicators. These have still to be agreed in detail with the Government but, if achieved, will be deemed to have improved our efficiency over the areas involved by 7.5%. The details of the Indicators involved are shown at Appendix 6 of this Plan.
10.8 Priority - Consultation with the Community
Building on previous work, and to maximise cost effectiveness and avoid duplication, the Council is working with District Councils on the Best Value User Satisfaction Survey that will be undertaken in Autumn 2003, and with other agencies through the Leicestershire Local Strategic Partnership to make best use of the views and aspirations of citizens.
A "Consultation Toolkit" providing an online electronic resource for officers who are engaged in or contemplating carrying out consultation to assist them in planning, implementation and monitoring of consultation activity and outcomes. As part of the toolkit, a new consultation database will be available as a means of co-ordinating consultation across both the Council and other agencies operating in Leicestershire. The database provides a record of consultation carried out in the County enabling officers ultimately to cross-reference findings with earlier surveys, view recent consultation and even contribute consultation information in a more automated fashion.
Further development of the Database in 2003 will give partners and the public access, via the Council’s Website, to copies of survey questions, results and outcomes.
10.9 Priority - Developing Medium Term Financial Planning
We have previously been unable to make reliable plans or forecasts on more than a yearly basis due to local and national political and funding uncertainties. With the election of a single party Administration in the Council and the development of longer term indicative funding by Government it is now possible to develop credible medium term financial plans. In addition the new system of capital finance that will shortly be introduced by the Prudential Code will require us to produce an assessment of the impact on council tax of future capital spending. We will therefore develop a medium term financial plan in the autumn of 2003 with the aim of reporting ultimately to Council in February 2004. This will help to inform consideration of policy priorities in constructing the budget for 2004/05 and future years.
The introduction of the Prudential Code is also an opportunity for the Council to consider how best to use the potential flexibility offered in order to develop services. We will review our methods of capital appraisal and programming in 2003 so that we are in a position to operate the Code effectively when it is introduced in 2004.
10.10 Priority - Improving Service Planning and Performance Management
We have recently revised our guidance on service planning in order to achieve greater consistency across Departments. The review of the Medium Term Corporate Strategy will allow us to develop a corporate approach to performance management since it identifies the Council’s priorities for development and sets targets to be achieved and/or actions to be completed. We intend, during 2003/04, to develop a process of monitoring and reporting to members on progress against our priorities based around the priorities in the Medium Term Corporate Strategy and reflected in this Performance Plan. Departments will continue to develop internal methods of managing and monitoring their own performance in a way that suits their particular circumstances, but these will be monitored and reported on in a consistent manner at a corporate level. We have established a corporate officer group to share good practice as we develop a more corporate approach to the elements of performance management.
10.11 Priority - Development of a Human Resource Strategy
Significant progress has been made in meeting the Council’s aim of supporting a highly motivated, well trained workforce to deliver clearly defined service targets. Building blocks have been put in place, including the development of a Human Resource Strategy, implementing the new job evaluation scheme across the Council, and addressing areas for development in the CPA.
We have started work on implementing a number of key initiatives identified in the Human Resource Strategy. As part of the performance management system the adoption of an appraisal system for individual review across the Council is being implemented and will apply to every employee. Each individual will have an individual training plan to ensure they are fully equipped to deliver quality services in line with identified targets. Further work is underway, building on the success of some parts of the Council, to attain the Investors in People award to ensure that the whole Council is accredited by 2005.
In 2001/02, we were in the best 25% of comparable authorities for the low numbers of voluntary leavers and of ill-health retirements. We were also at or above average for low sickness absence levels and low level of early retirements. In 2002/03 we maintained our good performance and were approximately on target for all of these indicators except for early retirements (where there was an increase due to the departmental reorganisation mentioned above). The development of better management information following the current installation of a new payroll and human resource computer system will enable us to maintain and improve on our good record in this area.
We have taken full account of staff matters in contracts that have been placed with external providers and we will comply, where applicable, with the requirements of the Code of Practice on Workforce Matters in Local Authority Service Contracts.
In addition to the above priorities we will make further improvements in other elements of our organisation that will improve our capacity to deliver better services.
10.12 Improved Project Planning
Many new developments that arise are complex and require careful planning and management if they are to be implemented successfully. We recognised that, with the exception of some technical areas, our procedures for project planning and management were inconsistent. During 2002 the external auditors did some work with us to identify how we can improve our procedures and develop the necessary skills amongst a sufficient number of our workforce to provide support to projects. We intend to apply the recommendations of this work to the major project on Better Access to Services in the first instance. We will also arrange for training to be available for a suitable number of employees to provide us with an adequate level of expertise in the future. The methodology already in use in our ICT services for managing small projects will be used as the basis of a more widespread and consistent approach to managing projects across all Departments.
10.13 Review of Procurement arrangements
The need for good procurement is becoming increasingly important as more services are purchased from external suppliers. Procurement expertise has been developed across departments in response to this. In 2002 we developed a procurement strategy to provide a consistent basis for our approach to procurement. In 2003/04 we will start to examine our procedures, guidance and methods of organisation through a review of our corporate approach to the co-ordination of procurement activity, including our relationship with ESPO.
10.14 Corporate Governance
The public need to have confidence that the Council is operating in a manner that provides openness in its decision making processes, with integrity in its management and is accountable for its performance.
Taken together these form the elements of good corporate governance. The Council’s Constitution includes many of the key requirements of this process.
We need to be able to demonstrate that the steps we take to meet these requirements are comprehensive and are being applied in practice. Therefore we intend to adopt a Code of Corporate Governance in 2003 based on the CIPFA/Solace model and to set up procedures to ensure that all the necessary elements are put in place and operating correctly. We intend to produce a first public Statement of Assurance with the final statement of accounts for 2002/03 which will summarise the extent of our compliance with this standard.
10.15 Risk Management
A specific element of the corporate governance framework that needs further work is risk management. We already have several corporate officer groups that are involved in identifying and addressing particular types of risks, such as Property, Health and Safety, and Vehicles. However, as we acknowledged in our response to the Corporate Performance Assessment, we do not have a consistent corporate approach to risk management in its widest sense. During 2003/04 we intend to develop a risk management strategy that will begin to address this.
10.16 Member Development
The importance of giving all members of the Council the opportunity to play a full part in the work of the Council, is recognised. In particular, we are currently:
working with external auditors to assess the effectiveness of the Scrutiny function, including the needs of members in relation to this role;
considering how to provide an improved current awareness service to members, as well as officers, as part of an initiative to provide a co-ordinated workplace library;
reviewing the County Council’s Member Planning Code and training those members who are involved in planning decisions on the application of the revised code.
Page Last Updated: 30 June 2003