Consultants’ fees of £300,000 is ‘money well spent’

Sean Woodward
Sean Woodward
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MONEY spent hiring a consultancy company to improve customer satisfaction at Fareham Borough Council has been ‘well spent’, according to councillors.

The Conservative-led council faced criticism earlier this year when it agreed to spend up to £300,000 hiring a ‘systems thinking’ company called Vanguard.

The council wanted to improve its 92 per cent customer satisfaction rating and agreed to spend £190,000 in the first year, £90,000 in the second and £20,000 in the third, to change the way its staff deal with customers.

Member for public protection Cllr Trevor Cartwright gave an update on the progress at the full council meeting.

He said a team of senior officers at the council had been working with Vanguard looking at the work of housing, building maintenance, streetscene and benefits departments and the first wave of staff training would be finished by the end of the year.

Cllr Cartwright said: ‘It is going exceptionally well. I used to be a system director at Vosper Thornycroft so I have seen systems thinking in action before. I have been very encouraged by it.’

The senior officer team observed customers are dealt with politely and they appreciate this. However, too often the customers’ needs are not met and if they are, it can take a long time.

This means customers have to make unnecessary contact with the council, ultimately costing the council money.

Leader of the council Cllr Sean Woodward said the money had been ‘well spent’.

He said: ‘It is about improving failure rates in our customer service.

‘For example if a council worker went out to fix a light and noticed a faulty power point, they would be empowered to fix the power point too.

‘This delights the customer and saves the council time and money. It is about empowerment of staff, but as a by-product we will make some savings. At the first stroke we have identified savings of over £30,000 in the first three years’

Leader of the Lib Dem opposition Cllr Paul Whittle said: ‘We believe it was not the best way to use resources particularly in the light of recent announcements of cutbacks. Staff are facing redundancies and having to change the way they use systems at the same time. It is not appropriate when we already have good feedback from our customers.’