THOUSANDS of pounds have been saved by a council bringing in a new way of working – and it has announced that it is to extend the scheme further.
Vanguard Consultancy overhauled systems at Fareham Borough Council at a total cost of £300,000 in May 2013, with the aim of increasing the council’s customer satisfaction rate, which stood at 92 per cent. This decision was heavily criticised by the Lib Dem opposition, who said it was an unnecessarily large amount of money to be spending at a time of cutbacks.
Since then, as the new system has spread to other departments, the authority estimates that it is saving £381,000 a year due to making its staff work more efficiently.
A review of the system’s progress was held at Fareham Borough Council’s executive meeting last night.
Council leader Sean Woodward said: ‘It is going extremely well. We accept now that while we did not undertake this process to bring in savings, that they are clearly an inevitable consequence of delivering a service in a smarter fashion.’
Cllr Woodward said he would be bringing Vanguard into other departments. It has been introduced in housing, penalty charge notices for car parking, benefits, planning and recruitment.
Cllr Keith Evans, executive member for planning and development, said Vanguard has seen improvements in the time in which applications are dealt with.
He said: ‘We have reduced one area of planning from an average completion time of 53 days to 33 days. We’re improving customer service and helping to reduce spending.’
Councillor Connie Hockley, executive member for leisure and community, said: ‘It is not just about savings, it’s the service we give to our customers.’
However, the Lib Dem opposition remains unconvinced.
Opposition leader Paul Whittle said: ‘Why has it taken until now for the current Conservative administration to realise inadequacies of the structures, ways of working and systems being used if the new findings are so remarkably clear, obvious and good?
‘It is wrong for the council to be claiming this as some huge success and victory, it is their public duty and job, to serve the people, be efficient and effective with public money and resources.’
Vanguard will be introduced to the streetscene and ICT departments at the council. There has not been a customer survey held since its introduction.