Agenda item

Agenda item

Fundamental Service Reviews


Nigel Kennedy, Head of Financial Services

Jan Heath, Business Development and Support Manager


The Council is undertaking a 4 year rolling programme of reviewing how all services are delivered in order to identify best practices and financial savings.  The Panel asked to consider the outcomes of the first round of reviews.


The Business Development and Support Manager said that the Fundamental Service Reviews (FSRs) was a 4 year rolling programme which involved looking at how services were being delivered and what best practice looked like, with the aim of identifying savings.  The scheduling of FSRs had been led by Executive Directors and Heads of Service.  An internal board had been formed which had met three times during each FSR.  Most FSRs included in the first round were now complete although a final meeting for Building Services would be held at the end of the week.  £645k of cumulative savings over four years had been identified and built into the Council’s medium term financial plan (MTFP).


In response to a question the Panel heard that no savings targets had been set and that the budget balanced without and additional savings being identified and achieved.  Further savings would be reported during the budget setting process. 


The Panel commented that the savings were impressive and asked why this process had not been done before.  The Business Development and Support Manager said that the Council had gone through a similar process a few years ago.  The FSRs were about making sure the Council delivered services efficiently in a way that was fit for purpose and provided best value.  This involved exploiting the benefits of new technology, looking at other Councils for good practices and striving to be radical and innovative.


The Panel questioned whether the very high cost of housing was having a detrimental impact on recruitment and making it harder for the Council to achieve its objectives.  The Panel heard that the difficulties around recruitment were a common theme.  The Council was relying on temporary and fixed term staff to an increased extent and was turning to other incentives to attract good employees in to the city.


The Panel noted that the FSRs were taking place within given political and policy constraints and questioned the extent to which officers were challenging politicians.  The Business Development and Support Manager explained that this was happening, notably in terms of waste collection and leisure concessions. 


The Panel considered the FSR for each service in turn.


OD & HR - The Panel made a general comment that the FSR outcomes did not include much by way of collaboration with other local authorities.  The Panel heard that some shared services options had been considered as well as options for selling services, buying services, outsourcing and company models.  While there were some positive examples of collaboration, the detail had not always been convincing.  For example, it had been considered the best option for OD&HR to continue to be delivered in house.  That said the Council was collaborating with Kent County Council on the provision of HR advice to schools.  The Panel encouraged further exploration of these sorts of opportunities.


Building Services - The Panel questioned why the HRA workload was reducing and heard that this was partly due to the impacts of rent reductions and the forces sale of higher value Council homes, and partly due to internal agreements about performance and productivity improvements. 


The Panel questioned whether more could be done to ensure that tenants would be home when officers visited to carry out repairs.  The Business Development and Support Manager said that a new online bookings service for repairs automatically sent reminders and was having a positive impact. 


The Panel questioned how a 15% reduction in the cost of responsive repairs was being achieved and heard that this was the result of incremental improvements such as process changes and the roll out of handheld devices, which were improving productivity.


The Panel also questioned whether people were asked if they wanted their kitchens and bathrooms to be replaced at the given intervals and The Business Development and Support Manager said that she would take this suggestion away.


Waste Collection – The Panel noted that reducing the frequency of collections was considered to yield little benefit and considered whether there may be a case for officering a different frequency of collections in different parts of the city, noting that this would have significant implications for residents.  The Panel also commented that there may be a case for charging houses in multiple occupations (HMOs) for waste collections.


The Panel noted that aggregate demand was increasing despite increases in recycling in the city.  The Head of Financial Services highlighted a proposal to expand the Cowley Marsh depot and said that budgetary provision had been made for a feasibility study.


Procurement & Payments - The Business Development and Support Manager said that the FSR had involved looking across the Council for more efficient procurement processes.  The negative saving given in year 4 (£23k) was due to a contractual change.


Housing Needs and Community Housing – The Head of Financial Services explained how retained Right to Buy receipts were being used.  The Panel suggested that the Housing Panel should also look at this.


Legal Services – The Panel questioned whether the Council had taken out any legal insurance to protect against higher than expected legal costs.  The Management Accountancy Manager explained that the Council had public liability insurance which covered some legal costs beyond an excess.


The Panel asked about the Legal Hub and heard that it is an arrangement between the local authorities in Oxfordshire that provides £20-30k of income per year for the Council


The Panel noted that some smaller services are not going through an FSR and suggested that opportunities to raise revenues in these areas should be kept under review.   






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