‘Budget silos’ and outsourcing made business case ‘hard to compile’

27 Jan 2016, 4:35 pm

The leader of a project on the development of freely-available technical standards for local government has highlighted that outsourcing and ‘siloed’ budgeting initially made business case data from councils’ refuse departments “hard to come by.”

Local_waste_stds_project_event_1The challenge in gathering business case data is outlined in project leader Linda O’Halloran’s second blog on the lessons learned from Local Digital’s Local Waste Service Standards Project to date

On the positive side, all participating councils had call volume and web page data relevant to waste management available to share.

To address the problem, the project team plans to write some reusable contract clauses for any councils that choose to use the standards.

The freely available business case was based on data provided by several local authorities, including the five participating councils and highlights the potential savings from co-developing a set of reusable technical and data standards. A revised version will be released next month.

Automated reports

Currently, when councils receive a call or email from a resident about a missed bin collection, customer services normally call waste services to verify the error, then call the resident back to resolve the issue or book a date for collection. However, an anpplication programming interface (API) that the project team aims to develop would automate reports and other services related to waste collection.

O’Halloran gives two reasons for the lack of information. “Firstly, outsourcing contracts can disincentivise gathering these ‘whole system’ insights by outsourcing responsibility for [waste] services that can cost councils huge money”. The other reason is that local authority budgets are delineated according to separate services, meaning that spending on customer services, web services, waste management and IT is “often siloed,” she writes.

She writes that very few councils involved in the project dealt had calculated how much it cost them to resolve a missed bin report, or how much money was wasted across all parts of the service, collecting bins that weren’t really missed. “This made the business case hard to compile. The information was hard to come by, because councils didn’t have it to hand,” she writes.

The next steps are to publish a revised ‘beta’ business case next month. Recommendations for how the sector might use the financial model to understand the benefits of standards more broadly will be published in the spring.

The team will then implement the standards with councils and suppliers and make a plan for national adoption.

Register here for the Local Digital Programme’s free Beta Showcase event on 22 February, which will share the new business case, the results of the project so far, gather input from attendees and demonstrate the standards.

Image credit: Local Digital Programme (Bristol Discovery Day event)