New way to work helps council to save £168,000

Gosport MP welcomes plans on homelessness but admits ‘it’s a significant problem’

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A NEW way of working at a council saved thousands of pounds, according to the its latest report.

Fareham Borough Council’s scrutiny board was presented with an update into the Vanguard method, a new approach that was brought in last May.

It was heavily-criticised by the opposition when it was brought in at a £300,000 cost to the council.

Now the second phase of the method – which has seen five areas of the council’s systems overhauled – is nearing completion, officers estimate it has saved the authority £168,000 in the first year – a figure which they expect to continue annually.

But leader of the opposition Paul Whittle continued to question the process and probed the council’s chief executive Peter Grimwood at the scrutiny board meeting.

Cllr Whittle said he was unhappy that it was implemented at such a large cost when a residents’ survey had said 92 per cent of people were already happy with the council.

But Mr Grimwood, who was invited as a guest to speak at the meeting, said: ‘The residents’ survey was telling us that 92 per cent of people were satisfied but in reality, what I was seeing in my inbox was telling a different story.’

He said the Vanguard method, by improving processes, had lessened the number of individual complaints the council was dealing with.

He added that the council had made savings from Vanguard, which had not yet resulted in any redundancies but that it ‘might’ if savings continued.

The scrutiny board discussed findings in a report that said due to the new way of working, services had improved. One was that it now only taking six days to process a benefit claim instead of 20 and the time taken to process a planning application had fallen from 56 to 36 days.

On the scrutiny board, Councillor Nick Gregory said: ‘I find it very refreshing that we’re looking at the small detail in how we can help our customers.’

Councillor Susan Bell praised council staff for how well they have adapted to the system.

The scrutiny board agreed to send a report to the executive, which includes reinvesting £30,000 of the savings to bringing Vanguard to the tenancy services department.