Agenda item

Agenda item

Commissioned Advice Strategy 2018-2021


Background Information

The Scrutiny Committee has asked for this item to be included on the agenda for pre-decision scrutiny.

Why is it on the agenda?

The City Executive Board will be asked to agree that the Council should formally commission advice services from 2018 at its meeting on 15 December 2016. This is an opportunity for the Scrutiny Committee to make recommendations to the City Executive Board.

Who has been invited to comment?

·         Councillor Brown, Board member for Customer and Corporate Services,

·         Paul Wilding, Revenue & Benefits Programme Manager.




Cllr Brown, Board member for Customer and Corporate Services presented the report.  She explained that the Council provides funding to four advice centres in the city for 3 years at a time. We are currently in the second year of the funding programme and are reviewing how we improve the way we  commission advice in the future  to make best use of taxpayers money and to meet the objectives of the financial inclusion strategy


It will take time to understand what the right services are for the city however we are discussing options with advice centres. No future structure has been agreed but we need to have consideration for.

  1. Making use of scarce public funds
  2. Improving the geographical equality of advice  provision in the city


The current advice centres provide an excellent service and are located in areas of greatest need however there are other areas in the city that also requires assistance.


Geoffrey Ferres. trustee for the Rose Hill and Donnington Advice Centre spoke.  He made the following points:

  • That the report before the committee suggests that the Council won’t give any more money after March 2018. Will there be funding for advice centre in 2018?
  • The Council plans to tender for a single city- wide provider.
  • Accepted there were geographical issues with the current set up as people aren’t likely to access a centre that is more than a mile away but believed these could be fixed within the current structure.
  • The sentence in the report that said “Advice centres were consulted and are broadly supportive of the proposal” is false


Cllr Brown regretted that Rose Hill and Donnington Advice Centre were not able to make the October meeting. She doesn’t expect advice centres to welcome this report but the Council spends £500,000 a year on advice centres and it is important to work with them to find ways we can provide an equitable service to people across the city.  She said the Council sees commissioning services as the best way we can achieve this.  There is plenty of work to do with advice centres to make services fit for purpose and sustainable.

She said that the report did not give her the impression that the Council was fixated on a single contract.  She doesn’t have a clear vision of the future structure and needs to talk and discuss all the options.


The Committee voiced support in principle for the general approach taken and the aim of reducing geographical gaps in provision but expressed concerns about the language and tone of the report and the perception this gave. They suggested the report should be reworked before going to CEB.  


Specific points raised included:

           The need to remove any room for perceptions that we already have a specific model in mind at this stage.

           The statement in para. 7 that current funding arrangements provide no incentives to reduce overheads – the committee felt that grant funding can be linked to outcomes.

           The Committee felt there was a ‘false conflict’ between services and overheads (which all organisations have).

           The Committee felt that there was ‘pejorative language’ in places that did not provide a fair representation of the advice agencies.

           The need for recognition that advice services are qualitative as well quantitative so the benefits they provide can’t all be reduced to measureable outcomes.

           The need for more recognition in the report that this is the start of an exercise – mentioning the future CEB decision(s) would be helpful.


Cllr Brown agreed the points raised by the Committee about some of the language not being quite right and would seek to address this.


Supporting documents: