Hidden savings

Doing more with less at a time when less is moreThe news we were all hoping would not become reality – has. The Office for National Statistics has confirmed that we are still in recession; other economic indicators are pointing to further increases in unemployment which will bring additional misery to communities up and down the country.
    
As recently as March this year, the Local Government Association reported 41 per cent of local authorities were experiencing an increase in demand for services for the unemployed or those at risk of unemployment, with 57 per cent of these experiencing increased demand for social housing.
    
There is no doubt now, that greater social need and demands on public services have hit at the same time as proposed cuts in public services are being called for.
    
There is a growing recognition that we need to manage by ‘doing more for less’.  This needs to be reflected in public sector initiatives such as ‘Total Place’, which are important as a means of assessing the total contribution of the public economy and assessing how more can be done.
 
Total Place
Total Place is a new initiative that looks at how a ‘whole area’ approach to public services can lead to better services at lower cost. It seeks to identify and avoid overlap and duplication between organisations – delivering a step change in both service improvement and efficiency at the local level, as well as across Whitehall.
    
This combined with the economic downturn is encouraging the public sector to find radical new solutions that not only deliver better value for money, but also improve local services that are better tailored to meet local needs.
    
As Sir Michael Bichard, Executive Director of the Institute for Government and Chair of the high-level officials’ group states: “It is about giving local providers the incentive to work together in new ways for the benefit of their clients and citizens – and the opportunity to tell Government how it could behave differently to make this kind of collaborative action more likely.”
    
Progressive procurement
But Total Place is only part of the solution. There is a requirement for progressive procurement processes and a greater understanding of where ‘hidden’ savings can be made without putting greater pressure on Council Tax payers.
    
One such area yet to be explored by the majority of councils is the inefficiencies around their document production processes, where is it estimated there are hidden savings of £1 billion.
    
Research, conducted across over 2,000 documents from a sample of 134 councils, has been undertaken to map activities, costs and resources supporting the conception of documents through to their publication. The findings have identified a huge untapped area for cost savings and performance improvements.
    
This study highlights where, when and how real savings can be achieved, given the sheer number of documents – many of which are statutory – that are produced by local authorities each year. All against a backdrop of declining government support grants and increased pressures for substantial operational cost and headcount reduction.
    
Key findings include:

  • A combined £1 billion can be saved from the document production process through improved business processes, design and print
  • On average a Tier 1 local authority has 2,566 live and current documents in the public domain; Tier 2 has 1,582
  • Document production currently costs a Tier 1 local authority over £11 million a year and £2.8 million for a Tier 2
  • Business process improvements could save a Tier 1 authority up to £2.6 million, and a Tier 2 could save £830,000
  • A Tier 1 authority could save up to £290,000 by improving their graphic design services, while a Tier 2 could save £169,000
  • Improvements in print management can also deliver significant savings – £300,000 for a Tier 1 and £60,000 for a Tier 2.

Councils have become experts in managing tight budgets, but they are likely to face even deeper, longer lasting cuts in the very near future. The report identifies some easy wins for local authorities, highlighting that in document production alone just under £1 billion can be saved across UK councils.
    
For the past six years Limehouse, an Objective Corporation Company, has been providing solutions to local government to support the inception, creation and publication of large, complex documents. Limehouse’s solutions have been used to create more than 15,000 of these, supporting customers throughout the entire document lifecycle. This has led to a comprehensive understanding of how councils can streamline their document production process to deliver significant, quick savings.

For more information
Visit www.limehousesoftware.co.uk/c2p for a copy of the research paper.