Havering delivers

When I was asked if Havering would lead on the NeSDS programme to deliver a range of e-service delivery standards we were happy to do so. A key part of the Strategy at Havering is to work with other agencies and partners to allow us to accelerate our IT capability.

Working together
It is important that we all help each other as local authorities to provide efficient and consistent levels of service to our customers. Havering LBC is committed to providing the best services possible through all our service areas and we are making excellent progress in reaching our goal – as can be seen by our success at achieving three stars in the recent CPA assessments. The efficiency agenda which takes into account value for money and shared services are part of our key drivers.
    
From the outset our consistent goal has been to translate the excellence that is already available in the local authority community into a set of e-Standards that can help all councils reach the same levels of service across all their services. These have to be based on local authorities doing it for themselves or it has no value in the marketplace. We are not imposing some arbitrary benchmarks. These are what councils already do best and where they believe local government needs to go.

Helping to achieve best practice
The programme has developed eight e-Standards, which local authorities can employ to identify process changes across a number of service areas. The e-Standards will “stretch” their capabilities, enabling local authorities to move forward toward best practice and excellence in the provision of their services.
    
We have demonstrated what excellence looks like, we have provided a road map (Minimum, Progressing and Excellent standards) and we have provided links and signposts to related initiatives.
    
The standards

  • provide an understanding of what service excellence looks like;
  • allow Local Authorities to assess their progress to date in comparison with other authorities;
  • establish a model for consistency across the Local Authorities marketplace;
  • enable service areas to communicate their e-Service agenda effectively to citizens and external organisations alike.   

The e-Standards assist in defining what a best practice Local Authority service area should look like from an e-Service perspective, how it should work, what employee roles it requires and the work processes it needs to achieve continued development.
    
They are standards to which an organisation should aspire in order to improve the quality of delivery achievable through the best use of its resources. They are not IT standards, but they combine IT with organisational change and skills improvements, and are squarely aimed at departmental heads. That over 6,500 copies of the standards were downloaded during the consultation phase is testament to their applicability and they represent a good basis for departmental and IT heads to jointly consider the future.

Standards suitable for all
The most important challenge faced by the project was to develop a set of standards relevant and suitable for all types of Local Authorities. The bar could not be set too high such that smaller and less developed authorities cannot achieve the minimum, while higher achieving authorities must also have something to aim for.
    
Our solution was to ensure the broadest possible inclusion of local authorities. We have secured probably the largest contribution from councils into a project of this size – and not just councils but relevant professional bodies and industry experts. By doing this we could take into account the wide variety of starting positions and reflect this throughout the standards. Nearly 200 local authorities - 51 per cent of all Local Authorities - and 59 professional bodies and other organisations contributed.
    
Each standard had a lead from a specific council. Their work and enthusiasm has driven the progress of each work-stream from initial brainstorming and work-shopping through to the tough QA process that every e-Standard has been submitted to. This has enabled eight high-value standards to be produced.
    
We could only achieve this because the local government community shared our vision and our concentration has been on making sure that all Local Authorities have had the opportunity to be a key part of the formation process. There has been a fantastic response and shows that local government is now ready to work together – real joint working and partnership is not just buzzwords any more, it is becoming a working reality.

Benefits so far
The NeSDS project is already delivering benefits. Some examples are:

  • North East Derbyshire District Council and Chesterfield Borough Council identified £66,507 efficiency savings for 2005/06 (46 per cent cashable, 54 per cent non-cashable). A further £295,725 of efficiency savings have been identified for the year 2006/07.
  • Kettering BC saved £40,000 through improved efficiency of Customer Access channels. A further £50,000 could be saved through joined-up working with other local authorities.
  • Brent Council have used the IT standards to create their latest ICT Strategy.

We built the standards to support local government so the resultant measurements and improvement plans can be re-used by authorities as ongoing benchmarks in service improvement. Now that the project is coming to an end the standards will be made available to professional bodies to maintain the standards, for example SOCITM will use and maintain the ICT standards as part of their service offering.

A future vision
It is important to remember that the standards are forward looking – they represent a vision of the future for local government to work towards in the next 3-5 years.
    
Unlike many performance indicators and measures, the standards have been developed by local government for local government. We will be able to measure our performance and put targeted actions in place to accelerate our service improvements. By using common standards, we can more easily import best practice from other organisations and share in the creation of best practice and shared services. This is the power of joint working – we need to share what we do well and learn from other local authorities when they excel in any given area.For more information
Web: www.NeSDS.gov.uk  

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