Grant Thornton have provided their latest views on the Use of Resources and Value For Money in the Audit Committee Papers here Some of the comments make quite worrying reading. For example:
"There remain opportunities to improve the understanding of links between costs and performance at service level. The view supported through our discussions with management is that there is not a clear understanding of unit costs, which in turn affects their ability to assess value for money or make best value decisions. The Council should look to routinely use cost and performance information to challenge whether it is achieving value for money".
They also appear to pass comment on the long and turgid reports by stating, "Monitoring reports sent to Cabinet Resources Committee (CRC) include budget and performance monitoring. There are however opportunities to make the reports more concise for members to make the best use of time for decision making purposes.
It would also be helpful to the other stakeholders - including the council taxpayers - if these reports were a bit more understandable. Grant Thornton also set out 8 high risk areas for the council to consider as follows. It doesn't make encouraging reading.
- The Council needs to demonstrate that it has an understanding, at a service level, of the links between costs and performance and achievement of value for money.
- As part of the One Barnet programme the Council should develop sound contract monitoring arrangements with third party providers.
- The Council should ensure that it is consistent in its approach to evaluating procurement options.
- The Council should follow a systematic approach to options appraisals, which includes being specific about benefits/outcomes expected and their measurement.
- The Council's Risk Management Strategy should be revised to include tolerance levels to assist officers in making important decisions, particularly around One Barnet.
- The Capital Assets Property Management Strategy (CAPS) should be reviewed to emphasise the focus on partnerships that is apparent within the One Barnet programme.
- Once the Council has robust fit-for-purpose data for its workforce it should develop a workforce strategy which links in with how One Barnet is to be delivered.
- There should be a focus on equipping senior managers with the necessary change management skills to ensure that the One Barnet is successful.
Some of these comments are a damning indictment of the process being used to push through the One Barnet proposals. Frankly I am staggered that at this stage these sorts of risks are being identified - although the GT report does seem to suggest that the council doesn't understand risk management when they say, "there is evidence to suggest that risk management is not widely understood within the Council." Loss of credibility in the One Barnet programme is escalating. Very soon I think a point will be reached when the programme must be temporarily halted to allow a root and branch review of how the whole scheme is being managed.