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Guest blogpost: Taryn Eves, RBKC

by | Nov 29, 2021 | Local government transformation, Medium term financial strategies | 0 comments

“IMPOWER are working with us to change the culture of our organisation”

Guest blogpost written by Taryn Eves, Director of Financial Management, at Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council

I joined Kensington and Chelsea over three years ago. While as an authority we have not experienced some of the tough financial decisions that other authorities face, we were still facing a substantial budget gap, and it was clear the financial position of the organisation had to change. We commissioned IMPOWER to provide support with our financial planning process and to enable us to identify savings of £40 million over a three-year period.

IMPOWER brought the capacity and skills we needed, but most importantly, they have been working with us to change the culture of our organisation. They have helped us to think innovatively about the mechanics of how the council operates and to shift the way we think about money. There is a greater awareness that short-term gains can lead to long-term losses, and that we need to be thinking about longer term sustainability as well as balancing the budget.

Benchmarking data demonstrated that we could improve outcomes whilst reducing costs – which is fundamental in helping us to break down the myth that high cost always equals good outcomes. Whilst some of our services were performing well, change was required across the authority to develop sustainable services for the future.

We wanted to break down some of the siloes that still existed, and there was work for us to do in getting buy-in from officers, members and service teams. We spent a year starting to reshape the organisation into one that had corporate ownership of the financial position and worked across departments to achieve outcomes.

IMPOWER has played a pivotal role in financial and business planning, and very quickly transitioned from long-term planning to short-term crisis response to help us identify in-year savings – as well as shape new services in response to the pandemic. At the start of last summer everyone across the council was working to manage the response to the pandemic, but after a difficult few months, we are now in a position to set a balanced budget for 2021/22. Long-term planning is back on the agenda and we have an opportunity to build on the lessons learnt from last 18 months – as well as re-visiting some of the proposals that were being planned before the pandemic hit. We now have a very clear ambition to deliver the outcomes in the Council Plan and our recovery priorities – and all within a smaller financial envelope.

Outcome-based financial planning is new to Kensington and Chelsea, so learning from others has been invaluable. IMPOWER facilitated conversations with other boroughs to share insight and good practice, enabling us to develop transformational service ideas and push them forward into deliverables.

Working with the Director of Corporate Strategy, we set up a performance management team and developed a corporate dashboard (linked to outcome-based performance against our priorities) and earlier this year a Covid dashboard which informed the council’s response to the pandemic.

IMPOWER’s strong public sector ethos and flexibility has been key to our success. They have brought invaluable knowledge of the sector’s Covid recovery and savings delivery plans, and have fully embedded themselves into the organisation. We have a fantastic working relationship – and they really do feel like one of the team.