Derby City Council

Cabinet to approve £1m to “Change Derby” – the benefits are “an act of faith”

Today, the Cabinet is set to approve a proposal by Council Officers, to spend £1m on a new “Change Derby” programme.

After much questioning last night at the Executive Scrutiny Board ( cross party panel of Councillors) it became apparent that the purpose of the spend was to generate savings in the Council – however no opportunities had been identified, no indication of how significant the reductions would be, no link to the priorities identified by elected members and no declared business case.

The assertion was that, if costs are monitored, closely, they would reduce.

The Cabinet paper, read like a script from “Yes, Minister”:

“The Change Derby programme will focus on reducing bureaucracy, improving processes through lean reviews, managing demands, roll-out of a digital agenda and behaviour change to facilitate a modern, efficient and engaged organisation. The team will be key to the delivery of cross-cutting themes as part of the Medium Term Financial Strategy. Benefits are expected to include; delivery of change at a greater pace through dedicated capacity, retaining established project skills and experience, having a cross-cutting resource with a corporate understanding of the various services and directorates in DCC and reducing the need to employ change consultants or temporary project managers at a more costly rate to implement key money saving and efficiency projects. Wider benefits derived from the team will be closely monitored”

There was some uncomfortable “shuffling of papers” when it became apparent that the implications of this proposal might be the loss of jobs which had not previously been disclosed, or subject to the requisite consultation process, or declaration on confidential papers. It was equally not entirely clear where the resources were coming from; one Officer did imply that there would need to be “refocusing” or “upskilling” or possibly recruitment.

Comment

The £1m would come from the Delivering Differently fund. This was a similar programme established 3 years ago to make changes in the way that the Council operates. It was evident that Councillors had not been made aware of what that programme had achieved, and how much money had been saved; nothing had been reported. It was divulged that the project team were partly involved in delivering operational jobs and not solely focussed on change projects; this was not the original purpose.

An organisation the size of the Council will have waste. It has already spent 3 years improving its processes. It should have a clear idea on where the future challenges are and therefore should be able to marry up the benefits with the cost of bringing in additional resources.

The fact that Officers saw fit to bring a proposal to spend £1m with no published concept of what it would achieve gives some indication of where the problems remain in the Council. The Cabinet should break with tradition and reject this request, and demand a more thorough and professional submission from Council Officers before this money is committed.

Otherwise it will be spending £1m of tax payers as an “act of faith” – not quite what you would expect from a Conservative administration.

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