A new senior management structure has been agreed to drive forward an innovative plan which will transform the way South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) delivers its services.
A meeting of SLDC’s Full Council last night (Wednesday) unanimously approved the new management structure, which has been redesigned as part of the council’s Customer Connect project.
Customer Connect puts a clear focus on the needs of the customer and delivering faster, better and more cost-effective services.
Under the new way of working customers will have better access to services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and have more opportunity to self-serve through improved digital options.
The council is also committed to continuing to support its most vulnerable residents by offering face-to-face or over-the-phone contact.
The new structure agreed last night will support the Customer Connect objectives.
Customer Connect is estimated to make savings of £8 million over 10 years by restructuring the entire organisation, embracing more digital technology and making the council fit for the future.
The new senior management structure will operate within three tiers rather than the existing four and will lead to potential total managerial savings of £200,000 per year from next year.
SLDC Leader, Councillor Giles Archibald, said: “Customer Connect will enable us to be more efficient and deliver the services our residents deserve.
“By restructuring we can work in more flexible, agile ways ensuring we can respond to change and design services around customers’ needs.
“We will also have an opportunity to make very significant savings and it would be irresponsible not to do so.
“The new management structure that has been approved plays a crucial part in those savings but also in driving the service improvements we will see through Customer Connect.
“My Cabinet colleagues and I are very grateful for all the hard work that officers of this council are putting in to this very important project.
“We are also pleased to see that staff at the council are being so supportive of Customer Connect, with a recent staff survey showing that 81% of SLDC workers agree the decision to implement the project is a good one.’’
Councillors approved the Customer Connect business plan in July.
In September the council also signed up to the government’s new Local Digital Declaration initiative, which encourages local authorities to maximise the use of technology to improve public services.
Chief Executive, Lawrence Conway, said the aims and objectives of Customer Connect are closely aligned to the principles of the Local Digital Declaration, intending to make council services easier and more convenient for customers to access.
Mr Conway said: “Customer Connect is all about ensuring our customers and communities are central to everything the council does.
“As a council we are currently maintaining service levels and delivering balanced budgets. We are in a reasonably sound financial position, but we also recognise that there are budget pressures on the very near horizon as central government support is reduced.
“Customer Connect is part of a wider strategy to ensure the council is resilient and flexible enough to withstand these pressures. It is vital that councils look to become as cost effective and efficient as possible. The government, through the Local Digital Declaration, is encouraging exactly this sort of innovation.
“Failing to do this now means a greater risk services will not be sustainable in the future – which could result in reduced services if we don’t act now.’’
Delivering the Customer Connect business plan will cost £3.8million. It estimates a reduction in staffing costs equivalent to 43 full time posts by January 2020. SLDC currently employs 416.
The programme is budgeted to deliver savings of around £1.5 million a year, so in two and a half years it will have delivered payback on the initial investment and after that will achieve real savings and a reduction in the council’s annual deficit.
SLDC’s Deputy Leader, Councillor Jonathan Brook, said: “This is a spend-to-save initiative, the scope of which this council has not seen before.
“This project is all about improving systems and delivering services in a more efficient way, reducing waste and simplifying processes, empowering employees and restructuring the whole organisation from top-to-bottom.”