Duty Now For The Future
I’d like to send you my very best wishes for 2017. I imagine that Christmas and New Year are already something of a distant memory but, nonetheless, I hope you managed to enjoy some peace and relaxation.
The period ahead is, without a doubt, going to place considerable individual and collective demands on us. It will be, to quote Pete Wylie, “The Year Of Decision”. This is because we now have a new vision and four priorities to guide our work; one of the trickiest budgets ever is nearing the end of its consultation period and will be set at the end of February; and the “go” button has just been pressed for the implementation of the future operating model – perhaps more simply expressed as “the way we’re going to be doing things around here”.
These three factors, both singly and in combination, mean that 2017 will be a year we remember for taking a good deal of significant and decisive actions.
There is a clear expectation that the whole of the council – that’s you and me (and possibly Bobby McGee if she is amongst us) – will be thinking constantly about how to ensure that everything that we do makes a difference to the outcomes linked to the priorities of children & young people, housing, jobs & skills and health & wellbeing.
To help ensure the focus on delivering these priorities and the corresponding priority outcomes is both forensic and sustained, I am introducing Challenge Panels. Starting no later than the beginning of April, the Panels will, through a continuous rolling programme, examine every aspect of the council’s activity and seek to ensure that all services and spending are:
- making a direct positive and measurable difference to the priority outcomes;
- the very best value for money; and
- making the most of the opportunities available to work closely with other areas of the council, partners, other local authorities and, of course, our communities.
The Panels will be chaired by, and made up from the most relevant senior officers across the council, along with other experts, and will put service leads/budget holders through their paces to show how they are making a positive difference everyday to people’s lives.
This initiative will ensure that every penny of our £850m controllable spend are put under the microscope. (NB Overall we are actually responsible for some £3bn but big chunks of that bigger budget are ringfenced – e.g. to schools, housing, etc.) The Panel Sessions will ensure that we are not only aligning all our resources to our priorities, but also strengthening accountability and transparency for impact and budgetary control.
Whilst the 2017/18 budget is yet to be set (28th February), it is inevitable that there will be a number of big and very challenging savings included in it. To anticipate this, and in addition to the Challenge Panels, my CLT colleague Angela Probert (Strategic Director for Change & Support Services) has begun the process of setting up a “Big Ticket” Budget Board that the Deputy Leader and I will co-chair. This Board will take responsibility for ensuring that the relevant Strategic Directors and other officers are supported and, crucially, held to account for implementing those savings whose achievement is central to the delivery of the whole budget.
Having a robust budget and, crucially, a set of strengthened assurance arrangements for its delivery are essential if 2017/18 is to be a year in which our reputation for financial planning and execution are to be seen as beyond reproach.
And, central to achieving not simply the budget requirements but, most importantly, the council’s vision and priority outcomes is the introduction of the Future Operating Model (the FOM). In essence, this programme of change is about ensuring that our organisation has a strong and fully integrated corporate centre that enables the People, Place and Economy Directorates to work with elected members, partners, other bodies and communities to identify and put in the place the range of services that will make the most impact on the four priorities and their supporting outcomes.
The FOM has three key elements that will fall into place over the next 18 months.
Firstly, there is a review of the shape and functions of both the corporate and senior leadership teams to ensure that the most senior level of the organisation is equipped to deliver the challenges ahead.
Secondly, all support services that are currently not already part of the corporate centre (i.e. Not nested within Change & Support Services or Legal & Finance Directorates) will be reviewed with the presumption of consolidation into the corporate centre – which itself will be further reshaped.
Thirdly, there is to be a broad and deep review of the layers of management across the organisation and the “spans of control” that managers have – i.e. how many people they are actually responsible for.
For further detail on the Future Operating Model please follow this link.
This change programme is large scale and, dare I say it, will alter radically how the council operates, looks and feels. Regrettably, it brings with it the now inevitable s188 notices because, along with this necessary future-proofing, we are also in the position of needing to reduce our staffing costs still further if the council is to live within its significantly reducing means (another £78m of savings in 17/18 alone).
As you will know from things I have said or written previously, I don’t make any of these changes lightly. Despite the rumours, I am – like all of you – human and, as such, immensely saddened by the necessity of almost continuous downsizing. I do not like losing colleagues to budget cuts.
However, as you know, there just aren’t credible alternatives to staff reductions, so my determination has always been to ensure two things.
Firstly, that if someone finds themselves having to leave then let’s be clear, this is not personal. Circumstances dictate that we urgently need to shape the council of the future, in doing so retain the key skills we need and, at the same time, reduce our costs. As we go through this process, I ask all managers and other decision-makers to facilitate these arrangements with a mind to ensuring respect and dignity for each individual affected. We should be treating our colleagues exactly as we would wish to be treated and, in particular, not forgetting the contribution made, in many cases over a considerable number of years.
Whilst you reflect on this, please read the article available via this link and then you’ll never forget just how far a thank you goes.
Secondly, for those continuing with the council we have an expanding staff offer that supports continuing professional development and enhances the contribution to making a positive difference. I, and others, have written previously about the development of the Improvement Hub which is our response to this and I will reiterate that I am wholly committed to ensuring that, as we get to grips with the new vision and priorities, as we understand the 2017/18 budget, and as we deliver a new operating model, you and me (and, yes, Bobby McGee) will be able to access the support, challenge, development and learning we need to excel.
So, I’ll finish as I started with wishing you all the best for 2017. The Year Of Decision.