Posted tagged ‘audit commission’

That was the local government week that was

March 9, 2012

But that's not proper qwerty!

This is a fascinating week for local authorities as all of us need to have our budget agreed by the end of the week. Many will already have done it weeks ago and some would have left it to the last minute. This has meant many long nights for senior officers and a lot more sightings of councillors than we might see for the rest of the year. The budget process is the culmination of a lot of work for a lot of people but much like the rest of life local government work doesn’t stop when the budget is signed off. Even more important will be delivering the services with the reduced budgets and doing so in a way we’d all be proud of.

So, local government will keep on keeping on and so will the WLLG local government round up:

Speaking of budgets, the Audit Commission has announced this week that they have awarded ten contracts for the provision of audit services to local authorities. As the Guardian reported:

Two of the ‘big four’ auditors, PwC and Deloitte, have missed out on contracts, while the other two, Ernst & Young and KPMG, will share half of the 10 regional contracts.

The big winner appears to be Grant Thornton, which has taken a maximum four contracts with a total estimated value of £41.3m.

As you can see these have largely been let out on five year contracts to major accounting firms. I’m not an expert but I can’t believe this is what Eric Pickles was hoping for when he pledged to localise the provision of audit and may have a significant impact on local authorities over the next five years.

Onto more interesting topics.

People have often said that local government is a job for life (ITV did so just last week!!!) but they would be wrong. Increasingly, local government staff are needing to think about their careers in different ways; a point recognised by the excellent Guardian Local Government Network who have started a regular careers e-mail and set up a local government specific jobs board.

Despite these positive steps good career advice is difficult to come by, in part because a lot of it is over a short period of time. I was therefore rather chuffed to have stumbled across this piece from Jonathan Flowers specifically about career planning. The whole piece is excellent but I was particularly taken with this bit of imagery:


Hello Mr Inspector, not staying for a cuppa?

October 13, 2011

The best citizen inspector ever... Go Go Gadget!

It’s guest post day at WLLG; today with some provocative thoughts about citizen inspection and life after the audit commission. If you would like to submit a guest post (we love guest posts) please drop us a line at but not before you’ve read this:

Every since I was a little girl, I remember taking exams, tests, interviews and answering questions. Our lives revolve around being tested and dreading the results that are posted or emailed to our post and now inboxes. Granted, I still have nightmares about my Maths A-level!

Local authorities are no exception. They used to have multitudes of inspections; Ofsted, CA inspections, peer inspections, cross borough inspections. The list continues. ..

My first ever job in a Local Authority came one month before an Ofsted inspection. Plants appeared from nowhere. The printers started working. We had daily walk abouts from our Director. Supervision notes were sent straight to HR. Desks were cleared. The heating was turned on (it was January at this point). Team meetings were given to ensure we stayed on message.

My role in the Ofsted inspection was to train up 10 community members to mirror their inspection. They would lead on their own line of enquiry and report straight back to Ofsted. We recruited and trained them and they then went out into the world and interviewed and inspected various community centres. When it came to presenting their findings to the inspectors, we all sat at the back with baited breath. I remember the whole room going quite still in preparation for their verdict.

These particular community members graded us as a good council. Exceptional was a far way off for them. Ofsted left praising the scheme and the community members, thoroughly impressed that they could give their views. My Director gave me a nod of approval. I had passed my probation!

The reason I’m writing this is because I’m a keen follower of the political party conferences. I have been watching my sector – engagement and consultation – closely over the last few months. I have been seeing changes from slogans such as the “Big Society” to “community auditors” and “governors”. The Tory’s have been shouting about local inspections, led by local people.


Inside out

September 22, 2011

How far on the journey are we?

When I was much younger I spent a wonderful autumn making some extra money through conkers.  It wasn’t big business, but having a conker tree in the back garden meant I had a steady supply when many of my friends didn’t, so I swapped enough money for the odd trip to the tuck shop for some un-treated conkers of varying sizes.  My friends could have gone and got some conkers themselves, or perhaps sourced an external supplier from another school, but my services were cost effective and efficient, I offered a guaranteed service and at the end of the day I shared my sweets with them, so everyone was a winner.

This delve into history came to mind today when I read news that Birmingham City Council’s legal services team have secured a major contract to supply 70 health trusts legal support at a cost of £8.8m.  This has precipitated the development of two brand new divisions – LSB Law and LSB Law Conferencing – which will deliver this work and the training to complement it, a huge task in anyone’s estimation.

To my admittedly limited knowledge, this has to be one of the biggest examples this country has ever seen of a public sector service offered by one Council being sold to other public sector agencies.  I have experience of internal consultancies, many of which prove very successful.  Where a specialism exists which one single team has developed and which other teams need, it is not unusual for that team to charge a modest fee to make use of this service.  Design, communications, consultation, audit, legal advice, training, research, print; all these and more are made use of in the internal marketplace (which we looked at ourselves some time ago). (more…)

The collapse of the corporate centre

August 15, 2011

Something not to throw away!

‘Never throw away your old drain-pipes’

My university lecturer was not talking about guttering but about the fashionable uber-skinny jean which had been in and out of fashion many times in his lecturing career. His argument was that if you follow local government you should be prepared to see ideas, structures and policies come in and out of fashion.

Never has a wiser word been said and as goes drainpipe trousers so goes the corporate centre within local authorities.

During the early 2000s the inspection and performance management regimes of the Labour Government were in full swing and the Audit Commission was constantly driving local authorities to improve their ‘corporate capacity’. The rationale for this was that councils were showing weak leadership from the Chief Executive down; decisions weren’t joined up and policy decisions weren’t being made from a structures evidence base.

What followed was a substantial investment in policy and performance teams. Allied to this was a renewed focus on engaging the public so added to this new central function was an investment in community engagement expertise and communications teams. On top of this was a new focus on working in partnership with local providers and a commitment to meet the Government’s equalities agenda so these teams were added to the corporate centre along with the recently amended committee teams now embarking on the new world of scrutiny.

Councils were asked to focus on centralising certain functions and teams like procurement, business improvement and project management were added to the centre; often grouped together with the others in a Chief Execs department or a deputy chief deputy chief execs team in some bigger authorities.

Flagrant waste of council tax money

February 18, 2011

We’ve mentioned many times that we love guest posts and we do our best to put them up as and when they pop into our inbox. Today’s excellent post is from Matt in London who pokes a little fun at the obsession in the media about council furniture. If anyone would like to add their own post please drop us a line at

But not before you’ve enjoyed today’s post:

I’m frequently fascinated by the media (and wider public) interest in the money councils spend on office items, like stationery and chairs. The latter was most recently seen by our friends at the Audit Commission, but all sorts of councils including Haringey have had “name and shame” articles recently about spending taxpayers hard-earned cash on luxury items like seating.

Certainly papers seem to get more “up in arms” about a council spend £100 on chairs than they do on the massive sums frittered away on PFI projects and the like.

In light of this I thought I’d share this picture of some council furniture at my council, which I think demonstrates ‘value for money’. I don’t think there’s been much interior design oversight or aesthetics strategy planning around this mixed bunch, but it does look like we last invested in seating some time around the time of Local Public Service Agreements. Surely the public would be impressed by this during financially restricted times.

No budget for furniture or just too arty?

The king is dead, long live the king

September 15, 2010

As we have discussed before, the government recently announced that the mighty Audit Commission would be no more.  It would cease to be, become bereft of life; it would be an ex-commission.

Or would it?

There are currently murmurs that Mr Pickles has been talking with the soon-to-disappear organisation to urge them to privatise themselves.  Apparently he would like them to set up as a business and then bid in an open market to secure the contracts that they once fulfilled. (more…)