Council to spend thousands on ‘systems thinking’

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FAREHAM Borough Council will spend £300,000 on a consultancy company to improve its customer service.

Councillors decided at a meeting on Monday to invest the money into the Vanguard method over a three-year period.

Questions were raised by the new leader of the Liberal Democrats Cllr Paul Whittle as to whether this was a good use of public money.

He also raised concerns that Fareham Borough Council had not put this contract out to tender, meaning that the deal might not be the best value for the borough.

Consultancy company Vanguard helps service organisations change from a ‘command-and-control’ design to a ‘systems’ design.

Leader of Fareham Borough Council Cllr Sean Woodward said that he had been inspired to implement the Vanguard method after seeing the impact it had had on other authorities.

The Vanguard method was brought in to Portsmouth City Council’s housing department in 2008.

It was regarded as a success because the council’s housing waiting list fell from nearly 11,000 to less than 5,000, in turn saving £2m in the first two years.

Fareham Borough Council will bring in the Vanguard method across all its departments and hopes to increase its customer satisfaction level, which as of a 2011 survey is rated at 92 per cent.

Cllr Whittle said this was further proof that the money did not need to be spent.

He said: ‘There is an old adage “if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it”’.

Cllr Woodward said: ‘It is the height of arrogance to suggest that it is not good enough and that we shouldn’t be find a better way to do things.’

Cllr Woodward was also keen to reassure staff that this would not lead to job losses.

Fareham Unison also released a statement in support of the method.

It said: ‘Unison is satisfied with the assurances made that the finances put aside for this project will not affect the employee budget... following Vanguard’s input in other organisations, their staff have reported positively and experienced an increase in morale along with the improvements to customer service.

‘Unison fully supports the ideology of customer focus and improving the customer’s experience and holds no objection.’