Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Spending Priorities

If and when the spending priorities of local councils ever come under the microscope - I would offer up COSLA and the Improvement Service (IS) as two areas where huge savings could be made - and the public wouldn't notice a blind bit of difference.

In all likelihood - Scotland's 32 councils wouldn't notice any difference either. 

Just look at all these people employed by the Improvement Service - many of them on extremely good salaries and generous pensions, no doubt.

But how much does it cost to run the Improvement Service - public money, of course - and just what has the IS improved in recent years? 

What value has the Improvement Service added to front-line council services - in areas which make a genuine difference to people's lives? 

Not a lot as far as I can tell - or anyone else for that matter. 

Save Money, Shut COSLA (28 January 2012)

I've just had a brainwave on the subject of 'pain free' cuts.

Why doesn't Scottish local government do the hard pressed council tax payer a favour - and save money by shutting down COSLA in its present form at least.

The self-styled voice of Scotland's 32 local councils - is a total irrelevance these days.

What with a five year council tax freeze - what is COSLA's purpose and role - because no one seems to be taking its leadership seriously.

No pay bargaining has been taking place for quite some time - and that's likely to be the case for the foreseeable future.

So what does everyone at COSLA do with their time - other than talk a great fight about COSLA's role in a mythical partnership with the Scottish Government?

I imagine lots of people go to lots of meetings - but do these meetings produce anything besides vast quantities of hot air.

What it all costs is shrouded in mystery - but the big question is - 'How can it possibly be good value for public money?'

Even COSLA's partner body - the Improvement Service (IS) - has failed to make much of an impact.

Beause the IS has been unable to persude COSLA's member councils - to do anything really meaningful on the shared services agenda.

The wizard idea is that councils would pool resources on backroom services - like payroll and IT - in order to make better use of scarce resources.

But the big project based on Glasgow and several neighbouring councils in west and central Scotland - went down like the proverbial lead balloon.

COSLA is nothing like the voice it was in the days of the Scottish Constitutional Convention - when COSLA carried undouted influence - when major figures like Charlie Gray spoke - with real authority and were greatly admired.

But no longer because times have changed - yet COSLA has not moved with the times - these days it's like the local government equivalent of - the Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club.

Here's a piece I wrote recently - explaining why things have got into such a mess.

Deck of Cards (September 23rd 2011)

According to The Herald yesterday the much vaunted plan by councils in the west of Scotland - to 'share services' and make better use of public money - is now officially a dead duck.

Glasgow is the latest council to pull out of the so-called - 'Clyde Valley Review'.

Which promised a new era of co-operation amongst councils - by eliminating duplication and pooling backroom office functions - such as payroll and information technology.

But after months and years of talking - the whole project has collapsed - like a house of cards.

The death knell was finally sounded yesterday - when Glasgow City Council announced that it too was pulling out.

COSLA and its partner body - the Improvement Agency - must be wondering why they have spent so much time and energy pushing an agenda - that nobody seems to support.

More evidence to show that COSLA - simply isn't punching its weight these days.

Councils and Cold Feet (20th September 2011)

Newspaper reports at the weekend suggest that the much vaunted plans for 'sharing' council services - is on its last legs.

Glasgow is the latest council to voice concerns over the 'shared services strategy' - which is designed eliminate duplication and waste - by pooling back-office functions such as payroll and information technology.

Sounds simple enough - but it seems that as soon as councils get anywhere near having to make a decision about how to proceed - they get cold feet.

Which makes the councils involved look ridiculous of course - along with COSLA and the Improvement Service who have both been championing this cause for years.

Unsuccessfully it appears - which makes you wonder why Scottish local government seems unable to work together - in the wider public interest.

Here's something I wrote on the subject earlier this month - prophetically as it turns out.

As far as I can see the individuals councils that make up Scottish local government - are just ignoring COSLA - and seem to be thumbing their noses at the Improvement Sevice.

If this pantomime continues for much longer - the Scottish Government will have to get involved.

Improving Council Services (September 1st 2011)

Here's the 'team' from Scotland's Improvement Service (IS) - an unelected public body set up by COSLA and the Scottish government some years ago.

See post dated 25 August 2011 - 'Interesting Bomb Pattern'

Now the IS aims to help local councils in Scotland improve their services - by adopting best practice and becoming more efficient - and by sharing services in some cases.

In which case I suggest that some of the 39-strong IS team - ought to be hot-footing it down to West Dunbartonshire Council - where shared services seem to be about as popular as the mention of tram cars on Leith Walk.

Because West Dunbartonshire Council has pulled out of a 'shared services' project amongst councils in the Clyde Valley - and now the whole programme appears to be on a 'shoogly peg'.

So maybe with all these specialist people on its staff - the Improvement Service can help get things back on track.

I certainly hope so.

Information about all the Improvement Service staff, including biographies and contact details.

1 Colin Mair, Chief Executive
2 Mark McAteer, Governance & Performance Management - Director
3 Bob Christie, Governance & Performance Management - Outcomes Programme Manager
4 Sarah Gadsden, Governance & Performance Management - PSIF Director
5 Andrew McGuire, Governance & Performance Management - Programme Manager
6 Jane O'Donnell, Governance & Performance Management - PSIF Project Manager
7 Andrew Noble, Government & Performance Management - Project Manager
8 Tallulah Lines, Governance & Performance Management - Project Officer
8 Alison Clyne, Governance & Performance Management - PSIF Project Officer
10 Konrad Zdeb, Governance & Performance Management - Graduate Support Assistant
11 Paul Dowie, Shared Services - Director
12 Bruce Harley, Shared Services - Change Champion
13 Simon Haston, Shared Services - Change Champion
14 Gerda Bartsch, Shared Services - Change Champion
15 Alexandra Ostroumoff-Croucher, Shared Services - Pensions Pathfinder Project Manager
16 Jim Kinney, Customer First - Programme Director
17 Tom McHugh, Customer First - Programme Manager
18 Martin Brown, Customer First - Head of Customer Relationship Management
19 Sally Buchanan, Customer First - Project Manager
20 Iain McKay, Customer First - Gazetteer Business Development Manager
21 Cameron Walker, Customer First - National Infrastructure Programme Manager
22 Robert Clubb, Customer First - National Infrastructure Programme Manager
23 Fiona Dick, Customer First - Communications and Projects Support Officer
24 Joanna Anderson, Customer First - Project Assistant
25 Karen Williamson, Customer First - Graduate Support Assistant
26 Kate O'Hagan, Organisational Development & Capacity Building - Head
27 Lesley Broadley, Organisational Development & Capacity Building - Senior Project Manager
28 Dot McLaughlin, Organisational Development & Capacity Building - Senior Project Manager
29 Jamie Carver, Organisational Development & Capacity Building - Project Assistant
30 Emma Hay, Planning Development - Programme Manager
31 Ross Pattenden, Organisational Development & Capacity Building - Project Assistant
32 Mike McLean, Knowledge Management - Head
33 Martin MacKinnon, Knowledge Management - Web Development Manager
34 Louise Jenkins, Knowledge Management - Web Content Editor
35 David Friel, Knowledge Management - Reporter
36 Jamie Kirk, Knowledge Management - Graduate Support Assistant
37 Loraine Higgins, Corporate & Business Support - Business Manager
38 Alison Ritchie, Corporate & Business Support - PA & Business Support Assistant
39 Kirsty Markie, Business Support - Graduate Support Assistant