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Kent to become commissioning authority, review corporate and legal services

Kent County Council is aiming to become a commissioning authority with a greater focus on outcomes as part of plans to save a further £239m between 2015/16 and 2017/18.

At a full council meeting last week, councillors endorsed the first phase of a strategy entitled the Whole-Council Transformation Plan. This phase, which will run from October 2013 until April 2014, has been designed around three key ‘themes’:

  1. Market engagement and services review;
  2. Integration and service redesign; and
  3. Managing change better.

A paper prepared by Kent’s Leader, Cllr Paul Carter, for the council meeting said market engagement and service review would “be the way we challenge fundamental assumptions about how and why we deliver services in the way we do”.

Cllr Carter added that such a review would be a key tool to support the council to become a commissioning authority “as we will be able to review options to identify the most appropriate provider – be that in-house or externally across the public, private and voluntary sector – to deliver the best possible outcomes for our customers”.

The first tranche of market reviews covers £98.2m in services, of which £76.1m relates to corporate support services, including legal services. The remaining £22.1m affects front line services.

The gross budget for market review for legal services is set out as £9,335,200 and the net budget for market review is £8,224,000.

The Leader’s paper said that all possible options for future service design and configuration would be explored. “We will actively engage with our customers and the market in order to find the best solutions to achieve sustainable service provision.”

Another document prepared for the council meeting, Facing the Challenge: Delivering Better Outcomes, suggested that:

  • There would be no ideological or professional bias in regards to who may provide services; and
  • There would be no predetermination about what form new delivery arrangements may take.

“Service reviews could result in the development of trading companies, Teckal companies, social enterprises, mutuals and joint ventures – whatever solution is most appropriate for the future needs and demands of the service,” the document said.

It added: “An important aspect will be actively engaging the market for solutions, and to encourage new providers to create, shape and develop markets to ensure sustainable service provision.”

The document pointed out how “KCC has a strong track record operating as a commercial provider to deliver successful and competitive traded services, for example our nationally recognised Legal Services”.

It said the council would seek to build on this success to explore the most appropriate business models that will allow the council to exploit market opportunities and further maximise its trading potential. "We will develop our service offer and competitive pricing to be be flexible and responsive to service demand."

A scoping brief for each review is due to be agreed by the end of October. Internal review teams will be supported by additional capacity and capability from outside the council

Phase 1 reviews are expected to be completed by the end of April 2014 and to have identified:

  • A comprehensive understanding of the current service;
  • A spectrum of options for future design and delivery, including potential providers. Recommendations can be made for the whole or part of each service;
  • A preferred option for decision, supported by an outline business case;
  • Authorisation to proceed to a full business case to progress the preferred option towards implementation of delivery.

On the second theme of integration and service redesign, Cllr Carter’s paper said: “To fundamentally transform how we deliver provision, we need to truly redesign our services to ensure we provide the best possible outcomes, at lower cost.

“This will be more than just the aggregation of existing services – integration and service redesign will require the complete re-evaluation of our current business to put service users at the heart of everything we do.”

The Transformation Plan set out a high level indication of integration of services into functional groups shaped around people, place and corporate functions. Full details of staff and team alignment will be developed to be considered by the council in December 2013.

The target is to reduce the number of business units in the council – currently standing at 80 – by 50%.

In relation to the third theme, Cllr Carter said a portfolio approach to managing projects and programmes would be taken.

"This approach will also allow KCC to be confident that we are consistently focusing on the things which make the greatest difference," he added.

There are fourt change portfolios: 0-25 Transformation; Adults Transformation; Place based Transformation; and Business capability Transformation.

The second and third faces of the transformation are expected to be completed by April 2015 and April 2016 respectively.

In his foreword to Facing the Challenge: Delivering Better Outcomes, Kent's Leader said: “The pace of change will be necessarily quick. The scale of change required is so fundamental that the traditional way KCC has delivered change to its services will be insufficient. Instead of a focus of delivering change within services, change must occur across and between services.

“This requires a new way of managing and delivering change beyond directorate structures which will look and feel very different to many of us, but which is essential if we are to reshape the organisation of the future reality in which it will exist.”