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The number of authorities reporting severe pressures has been really striking. The good news is there are proven, well-evidenced approaches which get to the heart of spending.

The hot weather in September may have fooled some of us into thinking that the summer hadn’t finished yet, but for many finance directors in local government it must feel like they never had a summer at all. As P3 and P4 data has emerged, the number of authorities reporting severe pressures has been really striking – and with Birmingham declaring a section 114 notice, local government finances are on the front page.

As Members return from their summer breaks and re-engage with their Chief Executives and Finance Directors, their agenda may be dominated by these overspends in an unprecedented way. Speaking to senior officers as we do every week, these pressures are particularly acute in children’s social care placements, home to school transport and adult social care placements. Budget challenges occur all the time, but it’s the scale, and the unexpected nature of these pressures, which mean they are top of the agenda, and start to threaten the financial sustainability of councils. We all know that the headline figures contain mitigations – meaning the underlying pressures may well be worse.

There will certainly be adrenaline-fuelled discussions held at the most senior levels of local government right now about how to respond. Some of the energy will no doubt be focussed on why this wasn’t foreseen – some of that will spill over to blame and recrimination over why finance and performance systems aren’t joined up.

Yes, proper forecasting capability needs to be built. But by itself, it won’t help change the trajectory of the spending and demand in these systems, which in the end is the only thing that leads to financial sustainability. Another potential distraction is to commission a diagnostic project to establish the exact nature of the problem. This can help to form a shared understanding of the issue but will only be valuable if it leads – immediately – to interventions which will shift demand and cost.

So – what is to be done? The good news is that there are proven, well-evidenced approaches which get to the heart of spending in your highest cost systems, impact and reduce demand, and help you to grip and control costs. Our Impact Report highlights some projects in which IMPOWER has supported this in the past.

The better news is these approaches help you to maintain outcomes and reduce future demand for acute service provision. We call these interventions our “Fast Forwards.” They typically last four months, give you in-year measurable spending and demand-reducing results, and build you a platform for longer term spending and demand reduction, where better outcomes cost less (see below for some examples).

We’d love to talk about how we can help your council. Please get in touch to continue the conversation.

 

IMPOWER’S IMPACT STATISTICS

Children’s social care placements:

  • Lincolnshire County Council: Over 45 children reunified with families or stepped down into better provision for their needs, resulting in savings of over £5.8m, alongside a 6% reduction in unit costs of independent provision.
  • Oxfordshire County Council: 22 children stepped down to better provision for their needs, resulting in savings of £3.5m.
  • Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council: Better outcomes achieved for 25 children (inc. those at the ‘Edge of Care’) resulting in a cost reduction of up to £3.7m.
  • Norfolk County Council: Driven changes to support for children and young people, and to foster carer matching and support, reducing average costs for fostering placements by 11% in parallel with an increase in in house foster carer utilisation of more than 14%, and an increase in fostering capacity of 30%.

Whole council impact:

  • Lincolnshire County Council: We worked across the Council and with Integrated Care System partners to deliver change in demand led service areas, provide transformation capacity and strategic support. Since 2020 we have delivered: £10M recurring savings across adults and children services. £2.4M saved to the health system. Increased grip and resilience of corporate transformation, PMO, performance and other enabling functions. Strategic support and step backs for the senior leadership team.

Adult social care and health:

  • Manchester City Council: We supported ambitious multi year transformation programmes to strengthen adult social care and improve hospital flow and discharge across the local care organisation footprint. We delivered: £3M savings to Manchester City Council ASC budget. £2.4M saving from one acute ward during intervention period. Improved practice and behaviours within health and social care systems. 1.5 day reduction in average patient stay in hospital wards. 25% decrease in high support discharges.