Shropshire Council to take on £95,000 consultant

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The council, which is laying off 1,700 people and making cuts to budgets, including adult social care and children’s services , will work with Bright Lake Consulting to “deliver services in new ways, ensuring they are designed to meet customers’ needs, and offer value-for money”.

The move is designed to cut red tape and get rid of unnecessary bureaucracy which the council says makes some services inefficient.

But they say they do not have the expertise within the council to shake-up the way they work and have given Bright Lake a two-year contract with the option of extending it further.

They say £20 million of savings have already been identified by working with the consultant on projects over the last 12 months.

Under the new contract, which is expected to be approved by the council’s cabinet when it meets this afternoon , Bright Lake will work with the authority’s programme management office and the business design team to create one business unit with the working title “Change for the Best”.

Change for the Best will be moved to ip&e, the trading company set up by the council to run some services for profit,  next month and council bosses said the skills passed on by the consultants could be sold on to other authorities in the future.

Bright Lake will look at changing the way the council provides its services with the aim of making them more efficient.

And seven members of staff at the council will be trained up to take over the role in the future – with the aim of selling the skills on to other local authorities.

Council chief executive Clive Wright said: “We are changing what we do to get the best results by redesigning systems to provide the best service for the customer.

“In the future, as our needs to redesign come down, the services we have changed – for example Social Services – might be saleable.

“On top of this, we will have the expertise to come in and help other authorities make changes.”

Council leader Keith Barrow added: “We are looking to market and sell-on what we are doing.

“We believe that what we are doing is so unique that others will buy it.” He added:  “This is about making savings.

“We do not have the expertise in house, so we have brought Bright Lake on board.

“We have been working with them for a while.

“But more importantly, we have got some really good staff here and this is about training them up in new ways of working.

“The work Bright Lake will be doing is about redesigning systems and business processes to make them more efficient.

“Our current system is called ‘Lean’ and I would describe this as ‘beyond Lean’.”

Officials say they have already identified £20 million of savings by working with Bright Lake over the last 12 months on a number of test projects.

One of those is the council’s “hedge to hedge” scheme, which has improved road maintenance.

Working with contractor Ringway, the council now has teams working daily to fix potholes, deal with litter, tackle overhanging branches and repair damaged signs.

The hedge to hedge process cuts out red tape and reliance on computer systems, which previously caused delays in the time taken to fix road problems.

The council previously sent out crews out to inspect roads and those crews would then report any issues they found to be fixed on a separate date by a different crew.

Under the new system, the teams have been provided with more adaptable equipment, and more responsibility to select for themselves what work needs to be done, so they can fix any problems they find in one go.

Councillors were being asked to give the go-ahead to the transfer of “Change for the Best” to ip&e at a meeting this afternoon.

But Labour group leader Alan Mosley questioned the need for the council to employ the consultant.

He said: “The proposal that Shropshire Council is to spend at least £190,000 on yet more consultancy is very scary for Shropshire residents given the administration’s appalling record on employing costly consultants.

“Small scale specialist one-off consultancy can be vital but this is for two years and potentially more, at enormous cost and at a time when the council is slashing services.

“Questions must be asked: why aren’t existing senior staff capable of this role?

“Is this not a further large pot of money down the drain which raises the vital question of do the administration know what they are doing?”