There has been a certain amount of discussion recently about the amount of money that Peterborough City Council have been spending on consultants. Probably the best way for the council to answer these questions would be to set out the timescale of their involvement with consultancy firms. No-one wants to criticise unfairly, but ratepayers are entitled to answers where questions arise in the media.
It is possible to discover some information from publicly available documents. Here are some items of interest, or at least relevance:
Stage One: This is from a pdf document dated 9th February 2009 from Amtec Consulting:
Peterborough City Council embarked upon a business transformation programme which delivered cashable savings in excess of £10.7m in its first two years.
AMTEC Consulting was appointed to assist in delivering the programme.
Peterborough City Council Peterborough aimed to deliver a robust and sustainable efficiency programme which sought to reduce council tax and improve performance in key priority areas. As a ‘good’ authority aspiring to be ‘excellent’, Peterborough wanted to deliver more effective services to its citizens but at a cost affordable to the tax payer.
AMTEC Consulting was appointed to create, drive and deliver a wide ranging transformation programme. Together with a team of seconded staff from within the council, AMTEC was able to create a detailed model of management and governance for the programme and establish a robust process for realising benefits and maximising value. With the full commitment of the Chief Executive and Executive Director, Strategic Resources, the business transformation team managed more than 56 projects within the programme.
The programme was set up in October 2006. In the first year it delivered £3.5m in cashable savings and in its second year £7.2m. The savings, which are repeatable each year, will be invested in customer and front-line services, such as street care, to drive further efficiencies, as well as to keep council tax increases to a minimum.
So we know that the decision to call in the consultants was made some time prior to October 2006.
Stage Two: More for less – a new approach to procurement is a Peterborough City Council pdf document dated 20 October 2009. Here is an extract:
• Procurement was previously seen as a predominantly administrative function, which did not add significant value to the organisation.
• Procedures had developed organically and were inefficient and bloated.
• Contractors were not given a clear picture of requirements, and contracts were poorly managed.
• The tendering process was inadequately resourced, leading to a ‘let and forget’ culture.
• Missed deadlines and overspending on large projects were far too common.
Peterborough City Council worked with AMTEC Consulting plc and its delivery partner, V4 Services Ltd, to transform its
procurement culture from ‘reactive’ to ‘proactive’, and build efficiency into its processes. This included:
• Making better use of existing frameworks, e.g. standard contracts available for public sector use.
• Seizing immediate savings by concentrating on demand management.
• Modifying the tendering process to involve the strategic procurement department at all stages.
• Improving communications with suppliers to enable coherent and intelligent scheduling of works.
This seems to be saying that the buying department was in a mess, and Amtec/V4 sorted it out. I take it to be the case that Amtec subcontracted the job to V4 because they had the know-how to do it. So here we have them getting stuck into the buying department.
Stage Three: refers to a document from a company called TMI Systems dated 23rd October 2009 introducing that third party, TMI Systems and referring to a “business transformation programme”. Here is an extract:
• As the transformation programme grew and gained pace, it became impractical to manage project ownership and performance using
spreadsheets and emails.
• Failure to achieve project deadlines could damage performance in connected operations and jeopardise the delivery of strategic
objectives and financial targets.
• There was a need for one central place where project teams, stakeholders and senior management could get a clear overview of the
whole business transformation programme.
So from the buying department, the programme is being extended to a council-wide transformation programme involving three layers of consultants.
Stage Four: And finally from this pdf file from swcouncils it can be seen that some or all of the various partners have built Verto, a computer system for managing pretty much all aspects of the running of the council:
Verto – now expanded to manage all of the council’s corporate projects:
Real-time sharing of information
Key project documentation including; Mandate, Business Case and Highlight Reports completed online
Tiered and simplified reporting
Online service approval and change control
Stakeholders project view across departments
Identification of project dependencies and links with strategic priorities and national indicators
View of projects by RAYG status and gateway position
User views of data according to their profile
Attaching of documents
So in fact, as things stand, consultants are running the council with the aid of Verto™. I am sure that most people don’t have an issue with council calling in consultants to sort out problems. A person might ask why the buying department was in such a mess when people were being paid a generous stipend to run it, but what’s done is done.
The two obvious questions that remain are as follows.
1. When are the consultants and all who sail with them pulling out?
2. Apparently Verto is being licensed out to other local authorities. Who gets the profit from residual sales of Verto?
No doubt someone will know of an industry standard practice.
There are plenty of other questions that people might legitimately ask. One could for example question whether the elected officials have lost control of the Council, and if so, when.
Note: Within the many documents that cover the programme there are references to savings, projected savings, “extractions” and forecasted savings. If a question arises concerning value for money, then these savings would need to be examined for validity by a qualified and independent senior accountant or ombudsman.
It’s a pity that they always tuck the useful information away in pdf files. It is definitely the case that Peterborough City Council advocate open government, but make it quite difficult to access data.uk