Public Services > Local Government

Council to re-energise Service Birmingham partnership

David Bicknell Published 03 December 2012

Cost savings driver spurs renewed commitment to joint venture

A long awaited review of Service Birmingham's relationship with Birmingham City Council has concluded that the partnership has been successful and driven 'significant value' in a number of the core services since its inception.

The review by the Best Practice Group, commissioned when Labour regained control of the council following the May elections, has concluded that it would be appropriate for the council and the Service Birmingham joint venture with Capita to work at strengthening their operating relationship rather than seeking ways to disengage from the partnership. If this is not done quickly, value will decrease and the relationship is likely to deteriorate, the review says.

The aim of the review was to explore if the partnership was providing value for money and to establish if it operates as originally envisaged or if it had changed to a more client-contactor relationship rather than a true partnership.

The review says it has identified a number of areas where there are good value for money outcomes, such as core ICT infrastructure, adult social care and revenues. However, there are pockets of activity, such as the contact centre and new projects, where performance is acceptable in some aspects but value for money (in the case of projects) and the council's perception of value for money (in the case of the contact centre) could be stronger.

A key element looking ahead will be innovation. According to the review, the council and Service Birmingham overcame early challenges in their relationship by having a 'great common cause'.

The council, says the review, entered the relationship in 2006 because it realised it had to fundamentally transform how it operated in order to improve social outcomes for its population. The sheer scale of the transformation enabled both the council and Service Birmingham to overcome early barriers in their relationship, because they had to work together to achieve the common cause.

Now, the review argues, because the transformation has largely been successful and the initiatives are almost complete, the level of innovation seems to have stalled and the relationship has deteriorated.

"Somewhere in the fire-fighting, both the council and Service Birmingham have lost sight of the next 'great common cause' - the fact that the Council needs to further reduce the cost of ICT service delivery delivered by Service Birmingham by £20m per annum. This will require some significant 'outside the box' thinking about how to achieve this from both the council and Service Birmingham."

Councillor Ian Ward, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, commented: "The council is committed to playing its part in ensuring the Service Birmingham Partnership continues to improve.

"Some very good progress has been made, but the bleak financial future that the council faces means we need Service Birmingham to operate as effectively as possible to deliver the innovation and efficiency that we need to find from our services to reduce costs and increase value for money," he said.

"The next 12 months will see officers working with Service Birmingham on those key areas identified by the review that will enable the partnership to better deliver for the council," he added. "I am confident that Service Birmingham wholly endorses the recommendations in this report and will work with us to address improving and building on the work to date."




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