Spending £300k on consultants ‘has saved money’

Leader of Fareham Borough Council Cllr Sean Woodward
Leader of Fareham Borough Council Cllr Sean Woodward
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SPENDING £300,000 on an external consultancy company to boost customer satisfaction has had an unexpected side effect of saving the council money, according to the council leader.

Leader of Fareham Borough Council, Cllr Sean Woodward, said he was ‘delighted’ to say the new processes will save the council at least £177,000 in the first three years.

As reported, in May, the Tory-led council agreed to spend up to £300,000 within three years on the Vanguard method, which helps service organisations change their systems and processes.

It was brought into question by the Lib Dem opposition, who grilled Cllr Woodward over the need to spend so much.

Leader of the Lib Dem group, cllr Paul Whittle said: ‘When this was sold to councillors we were told it was being undertaken as a customer service performance improvement. I specifically asked the question about financial implications and was told it was not about saving money.

‘I am rather surprised that we are now having it trumpeted about savings as that was not how it was sold to us.

‘While I am happy about making savings, at the end of the day they are still spending £300,000 on consultants.’

Cllr Woodward defended the scheme, saying it was necessary to help the council maintain the 92 per cent satisfaction rating residents awarded the authority during its last borough-wide survey of people’s attitudes in 2011.

The Vanguard method has now been in place since September.

Cllr Woodward added: ‘This is a real case in point. We have saved over half of the outlay within the first few weeks. The savings go far beyond this, as it will go forever.

‘We did not do it to make savings, it was about customer service. I knew we would make some savings, but I did not realise we would do quite so well.’

Phase one of the scheme is now complete, with an investigation carried out by six senior managers, a separate team focusing on the housing department and all managers attending courses to learn the method to pass it on.

The second phase will see the method brought into housing repair, car parking, planning applications, benefits and recruitment.