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Innovation project on track to deliver more than £8 million savings

20 March 2019

An innovation programme to transform us is on track to deliver savings in excess of £8 million.

A new leadership team has been recruited to drive forward our Customer Connect programme, which puts a clear focus on the needs of the customer and delivering faster, better and more cost-effective services. 

The new leadership structure operates in three tiers rather than the old four levels and will lead to potential total managerial savings of £200,000 per year from next year.

The overall Customer Connect programme is estimated to make savings in excess of £8 million over 10 years by restructuring the entire organisation, alongside a parallel project to modernise our main buildings to create flexible high-quality office space for businesses to support job creation and economic growth. 

Under the new way of working customers will have better access to services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and have more opportunity to self-serve through improved digital options. 

We are also committed to continuing to support our most vulnerable residents by maintaining face-to-face and over-the-phone contact.

Our Chief Executive Lawrence Conway said: “The recruitment of the new leadership team is a crucial milestone and means we are on track to deliver the savings and benefits from this Customer Connect programme.

“These managers will now be helping to recruit the rest of the roles in the new structure and driving more flexible, agile ways of working, to ensure we can respond to change and design our services around customers’ needs.

“This is a major project that has been many years in the planning, but careful project management means we have ensured that all our statutory functions and usual services will continue to be delivered during this period of transition.’’ 

Councillors approved the Customer Connect business plan in July and Full Council unanimously approved the new leadership structure in October.

In September we also signed up to the government’s new Local Digital Declaration initiative, which encourages local authorities to maximise the use of technology to improve public services.

Mr Conway explained the aims and objectives of Customer Connect are closely aligned to the principles of the Local Digital Declaration, intending to make our services easier and more convenient for customers to access.

He added: “Customer Connect is all about ensuring our customers and communities continue to be central to everything the council does.

“As a council we are currently maintaining service levels and delivering balanced budgets. We are in a reasonably sound financial position, but we also recognise that there are budget pressures on the very near horizon as central government support is reduced.

“Customer Connect is part of a wider strategy to ensure the council is resilient and flexible enough to withstand these pressures. It is vital that councils look to become as cost effective and efficient as possible and that is what we are doing with this programme. The government, through the Local Digital Declaration, is encouraging exactly this sort of innovation.

“Failing to do this means a greater risk services will not be sustainable in the future – which could result in reduced services if we don’t act now.’’

Delivering the Customer Connect business plan will cost £3.8million. It estimates a reduction in staffing costs across the whole organisation equivalent to 43 full time posts by January 2020. We currently employ 416. 

The vast majority of the staffing reductions have been achieved through voluntary redundancies, natural turnover and vacancy management.

The Customer Connect programme is budgeted to deliver savings of around £1.5 million a year, so in two and a half years it will have delivered payback on the initial investment and after that will achieve real savings and a reduction in our annual deficit.

Our Leader, Councillor Giles Archibald, said: “This is local government at its best, striving to find ways to save taxpayer money, while protecting and enhancing services and, with the wider buildings project included, offering new office space and improved access to the town hall to help support our communities and new town centre businesses.

“This project is all about improving our systems and delivering services in a more efficient way, reducing waste and simplifying processes, empowering employees and restructuring the whole organisation from top-to-bottom.

“Customer Connect will enable us to be more efficient and deliver the services our residents deserve. We will also have an opportunity to make very significant savings and it would be irresponsible not to do so.

“The new leadership team that is now in place is a crucial part in those savings but also in driving the service improvements we will see through Customer Connect.

“My Cabinet colleagues and I are very grateful for all the hard work that officers of this council are putting in to this very important project.’’

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