As part of the inspection process, Inspectors consider the quality of the reviews. Inspectors have made positive comments on the Council’s commitment to the best value process and on the arrangements for establishing corporate priorities and for reviewing services. Favourable comments include, for example, that consistent and clear aims have been established for services and that corporate priorities are reflected in service plans. Further, the Inspectors have commented that Waverley’s reviews are thorough, well managed and deal well with consultation.
Pointing to where improvement can be made, Inspectors have commented that reviews have focussed on convenient rather than challenging comparisons, that they could be more challenging and that consideration of competition was weak. Inspection reports emphasise, however, that the Council had successfully identified many of the weaknesses that Inspectors subsequently found.
In the three services inspected to date, the inspectors have highlighted weaknesses in information management and performance monitoring. This will have significant implications when the Council is tested by the Comprehensive Performance Assessment.
Financial and Staff Resources
For 2002/03, the budget book includes the following estimates for best value:
Implementing Best Value £10,000
Service reviews £60,000
Market research and consultation £50,000
Publishing the Best Value Performance Plan £25,000
External audit fees £46,500
The review will draw out the costs of best value, in particular the fundamental service review process, in more detail. It will also make detailed comparisons with other authorities and over time. This will show that the costs have reduced, and are expected to reduce further, and that the budget for best value has been cut in line with the Council’s ‘light touch’ approach.
The functions covered by this review fall within the work of the Chief Executive’s Support Unit. The following staff have a specific role in relation to best value and corporate management:
The Assistant Chief Executive
The Corporate Best Value Officer
The Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive
Service Review Group
The Service Review Group (SRG) will work with the cross-departmental ‘Improving Performance Group’ (IPG). The IPG will function as an independent reference group of senior managers. The SRG will comprise:
Anne Bott - Assistant Chief Executive
David Fannin - Corporate Best Value Officer
Sue Petzold - Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive
Margaret Wright - Housing Policy and Research Officer
Louise Goodfellow - Finance Research Officer (and Chair of the Improving
q Do Members, managers and the public have the performance information they need or want?
q Is effort being directed to poorer performing areas and/or areas of most significance to local people?
q Does the Council’s service review process result in more efficient, cost-effective and/or better quality services?
q Can the cost of best value service reviews and the officer time involved be further streamlined?
q How do Waverley’s service review and performance management arrangements compare with best practice?
In addition, the Audit Commission has indicated that CPA teams will test the following ‘building blocks’ when assessing the Council’s capacity to improve. These building blocks will be the basis for further challenge questions:
q Ownership of problems and willingness to change
q A sustained focus on what matters
q The capacity and systems to deliver performance and improvement
q Integration of Best Value into day to day management
The review will use existing benchmarking networks and the District Audit Service to develop comparisons and seek best practice. This will be supported by desktop research for best practice in local government journals and other management literature. There are no quantitative national or local performance indicators for best value functions although the Audit Commission Library of Performance Indicators is a potential source.
Appropriate consultation methods have been devised for consulting those with an interest in service reviews and their outcomes. The key stakeholders (and proposed consultation methods) are listed below. In this case Members have a key interest in both the process and outcomes of reviews. Exceptionally therefore they are identified below in the list of key stakeholders and consultees.
Members: Stage 3 consultations – format to be settled – Overview and Scrutiny views invited
Businesses: Face-to-face and telephone interviews with Business Forum
The public: Citizens’ Panel
Officers: At all levels, using Lotus Notes questionnaire and discussion groups
Partners: e.g. Surrey County Council in a discussion group and a sample of stakeholders from earlier best value reviews by telephone
District Audit: One-to-one discussion
Specialist services for consultation are already procured by competitive tender from external suppliers, i.e. consultants. Other aspects of competition are limited since this review is about streamlining a review process rather than improving a front-line or support service. However, it is possible that reviews could be conducted by peers or using management consultants and these possibilities will be explored.
In accordance with the flow diagram attached, information gathering will take place from May to September, so that conclusions are being formed and discussed by Members by October/November 2002. The review will be completed by the end of February 2003 with reports to the Executive Committee and Council in March 2003. The review is split into two key phases.
Phase 1 (planning and information gathering) will include:-
q Establishing Members’ views about the services;
q Consultation, information gathering and benchmarking
q Mapping existing practices and procedures;
q Testing strengths and weaknesses using the Excellence Model and other means;
Phase 2 (analysis and reporting) will include:-
q Analysing the findings;
q Identifying options for change;
q Consulting on options for change, as necessary;
q Preparing the final report, recommendations and improvement plan.
Resources Needed for the Review
The evaluation of best value is a function of the Corporate Support Unit, which will lead the review. The resources to undertake this review will be found from within the Best Value budget provision for 2002/03.