A few weeks ago we posted an article about Northamptonshire County Council and its decision to outsource its entire service offer. We suggested that new models of delivery are not a silver bullet for the challenges facing local government. This has been borne out by the Best Value Inspection undertaken by Max Caller CBE. The report undoubtedly makes salutary reading for local government.
In terms of the numbers – the report highlights the unsustainable use of reserves and the dark arts of local government finance jiggery-pokery to mask, rather than address, the underlying causes of demand in children’s and adults services and an assumption that grand structural changes will make the difference. The most alarming point here is that Northamptonshire is not alone in this approach. The recent NAO report Financial sustainability of local authorities 2018 highlights how many authorities have been forced to go down this route.
One line from the report, “there is no substitute for doing boring really well – only when you have a solid foundation can you innovate”, particularly stands out. It reflects the importance of some of the grunt work we do with local government. It may not be sexy, but it’s essential work for putting the structures in place that are needed to ensure new proposals are properly scrutinised; putting the rigour into developing business cases so that officers and members can make informed decisions, aware of both the upside and risks; and monitoring the delivery of savings by asking the difficult questions when things are off track.
While we pride ourselves on our innovation – we are equally proud of doing boring really well.