Shared Services. A working model?

Local Government is trying to save money as it has never done before. That of course begs the question  – if the services remain viable after all this cutting why was it not done before? I digress.

Some council’s are joining arms; huddling together. They’re forming small circles to defend against the icy blasts of the Cut, Cut, Cutting gales raging through local government land. Within the opportunities that concept presents in sharing services they are trying to discover savings. Savings usually means losing duplication. And to me that means people.

I spoke recently with the manager of one such service on the east coast of England.

East Lindsey and South Holland District Council’s in Lincolnshire have formed a company, Compass Point Business Services Ltd to share back office services. Chaired by one of the Councillors, Cllr P. PRZYSZLAK, this hybrid commercial/local government venture is seeking to offer similar service provision to that provided by Mouchel Business Services, who provide similar services to Lincolnshire County Council. One assumes, because of its symbiotic relationship with local government, Compass Point  Business Services Ltd won’t have quite the same issues with capital and looking for work. Both will be assured I would guess. Not quite a level playing field in terms of supplier equality.

In a conversation with Martin Payne of Compass Point in late January I asked if there was any intention to merge the web sites of both organisation, or at least to merge the provision. It’s early days yet and it looks like the web is a side issue to be dealt with after the back office merging of Revs & Bens has taken place.

Could you tell me a little about Compass point and how it will work with the web provision of both Councils?

Payne “Before Compass Point was formed East Lindsey moved our web site, back in August 2009 I think, from local hosting to being hosted at South Holland. There’s no major work planned at the moment. We’re using an old version of MS CMS and we would be looking to change this at some point in the future.”

How is the shared service working via a private limited company?

Payne. “ We are not a private limited company. We are owned jointly by East Lindsey and South Holland DC’s. It does get confusing when we talk to suppliers about licensing. We are allowed to look for business from other public service entities like other local authorities etc. but we’re very busy trying to merge the 5 services we have done so far.”

Are you looking outside of the County to sell your services?

Payne. “Definitely. Yes.”

Are you not fettered by Political issues?

Payne. “ this has all come about by attempts to save money. The intention is to save £30m but compass point have the ambition to attract business from other parts of the Country. Initially the intention was to include Boston but that didn’t come about. Perhaps that will change in the next 12 months. Our business model is to provide say Revs and Bens to the other districts, Lincoln for example. The ambition is to grow in that market place.”

How does this fit in with the Lincolnshire wide desire to share IT?

Payne. “ I don’t know if we will be seen as the outsiders. I’m not sure what is going to happen. I’m sure Politics will become involved in those decisions”

How many staff went into Compass point?

Payne. “300 staff went into the business and we are now re-structuring down to a figure of nearer 200 long term.”

Early days indeed and Payne went on to say they were frantic at present sorting everything out.

It will be hard to forecast the outcome for this crossbreed. Will it be a cross between a tiger and a lion or simply a mule. Time will tell but in the interim it will be worth watching. From what I am hearing there is some disquiet in the staff who are going, but that’s not just restricted to this type of partnership I guess. Local Government is in a mess all around.

In the meanwhile Lincolnshire County Council are continuing their long term web partnership with West Lindsey and North Kesteven District Councils. That partnership has been in existence for 5 years or more. The partners share the County CMS, some templates and staff work closely together between County and Districts. The partnership has been quietly delivering savings year on year. And in Lincolnshire became an early demonstration of what shared services could look like.

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Sitemorse. Wrong, wrong and wrong again.

Reputation on line article

Those chaps at Sitemorse, never slow to throw bricks at what they ‘judge’ as failing councils, picked on Lincolnshire County Council last week.

Using a spurious article from ‘The Sun’ where LCC were accused of spending £35,000 on a consultant to teach them how to Tweet, Vikki Chowney at Reputationonline here chose to construct a piece on Twitter in large organisations. Sitemorse used this article as a reference to say this… ” Rather than spending £35,000 twittering, perhaps Lincolnshire should focused on sorting out the complaince, quality and finctionality of thier own site as it was the greatest faller, dropping 254 places, scoring 3.77.”

Setting aside the own goals of the spelling mistakes; If ever you wanted a demonstration of how a piece is wrong in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place then this is it.

As I no longer work for Lincolnshire County Council I am not here to defend their wasteful spend on a Comms consultant – you can read all about Mr Fletcher, the consultant in question, and just how much he has cost the tax payers of Lincolnshire here and here – what I am commenting on is the use of totally wrong information to rig up a jibe  at an authority simply because they don’t use your service.  Fletcher’s report was not about teaching LCC to Tweet. So far as I am aware Fletcher knows nothing about Twitter other than not to use it.

I have talked in the past about  Sitemorse’s curious practice of kicking their potential clients where it hurts and then expecting them to become users of their service. Here we see jackboot marketing ably demonstrated yet again by these masters of tact.

I have said to Sitemorse before they should check their facts, not only, as in this case, when they take a swipe at an erstwhile client but also when they construct their reports. Oh yes, and thay shud chack there spillung two.