25/04/2012 - Permalink

Shropshire moves toward a new business-like approach for future Council services

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Shropshire residents will see a fresh, innovative approach to how future council services are provided, should Shropshire Council’s Cabinet approve a series of proposals in reports published today (Wednesday 25 April 2012). 

This initiative is the culmination of a drive by the Council, at a time of large reductions in its spending, to maintain both the range and quality of the services it provides to improve the quality of life of local people, and to protect local jobs. 

The reports recommend major changes in the way the Council operates in the future, starting with a clear split between those services it is best for the Council to continue to provide directly at the frontline level, and those which are best commissioned by the Council from other high quality providers.  This new approach will give local voluntary and community organisations and local businesses new opportunities to get involved in providing public services, ensuring that local residents get the right service at the right time, delivered by the right people for the job. 

It will also ensure that local people have a much greater say in how their priorities can be met, by the providers in the local marketplace best equipped to do this well, and to provide real value-for-money. 

At the same time, a new, Council-owned company would be created to provide a range of services, free from the usual local government bureaucracy and restrictions which have hindered more creative approaches in the past.  The Council will then be able, more quickly, to improve its services around the changing needs of Shropshire’s communities.  

The new company (which, in effect, is owned by local people) will also be able for the first time to trade for new business in a way which Shropshire Council cannot.  This will give it the opportunity to create ‘public’ profit, that can be returned to the Council to improve services and facilities for Shropshire communities, in ways that local residents have said are important to them, without needing to increase Council tax. 

At the same time, over the next 12 months, the Council will move to new arrangements for commissioning and buying services for local people from a wider range of good quality local providers.  New types of contracts, and the use of ‘payments by results’ for the first time, will give local people even better value-for-money in future, from all providers, and ensure outcomes which improve local quality of life. 

The new approach will give local people a greater choice of providers and better, more innovative ways of delivering services that keep quality high and costs low.  It also gives local businesses and social enterprises new opportunities to show what they are good at, and makes it easier for them to do business with the Council. 

Councillor Keith Barrow, Leader of Shropshire Council, spoke of the benefits of this new way of working: 

“The people of Shropshire have told us that they want us to be more business-like and cut through the layers of bureaucracy often involved in running Council services, so I truly believe that this new way of working will free the Council to do what it does best.  Our bold, new approach will give us public profit with a purpose and increase the income available to spend on the services local people value most.  Local councillors will continue to be accountable to the people they serve for this new framework, representing their communities’ priorities and preferences, and ensuring they thrive, to give local people a deep sense of pride in the place they live and work.”

“With the Cabinet’s support, I will take this proposal to full Council quickly, as the start of an exciting future for our staff, for our partners and, most importantly, for the residents of Shropshire.  A year or so ago, we had wide discussions with local people about the best way to deal with the major cuts in our funding which have now arrived.  As a result, we promised that our willingness to boldly change how we work, in this way, will mean we can avoid closing or reducing the quality of public services; avoid losing valuable local jobs for local people; and avoid increases in Council tax.  That is what local people have told us they want, and what we will deliver for them.”

Cabinet meets on Wednesday 2 May 2012 at 12 noon.