Innovative shared service is up and running
A number of local authorities across Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire are celebrating the successful launch of a ground-breaking shared service which should trim £675,000 per year off the cost of ‘back office’ functions.
The partnership, known as “GO Shared Services”, will be providing Finance, Procurement, HR and Payroll services to Cotswold District Council, Cheltenham Borough Council, Forest of Dean District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council. Staff will be using the Agresso Local Government Platform, a centralised sector specific Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution, supplied by UNIT4 Business Software Ltd.
The successful launch of the Shared Service on 1 April 2012 was the result of almost two years of hard work across the local authority partners, which included: procuring the ERP software, purchasing the hardware; designing the way the ERP system functions; gaining ‘buy-in’ from politicians and other key stakeholders; establishing a robust IT link across the partners; determining which local authority partner would become the employing authority for the Shared Service; recruiting to the Shared Service management team; undertaking the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) negotiations between management and staff; testing and implementing the new system; and ensuring that users were trained in the use of the new system.
The Shared Service is also providing services to two clients – Cheltenham Borough Homes Ltd (Cheltenham Borough Council’s Arms Length Management Organisation) and Ubico Ltd (a local authority company owned by Cheltenham Borough Council and Cotswold District Council.) Both clients are using the ERP system for their back office functions. One of the strategic aims of the management team is to enable more users to come on board in the future.
At the time of writing, three local authorities and the two non-local authority clients have successfully implemented the ERP system. Preparations for the remaining partner – Cotswold District Council – to “go live” during summer 2012 are well underway. In the autumn, the Shared Service will be reshaped to deliver both the financial and non-financial benefits which were forecast in the business case for the project.
Commenting on this achievement, Cheltenham BC Councillor Colin Hay, who chaired the GO Strategic Partnership Management Board, said: “From day one, all the partners focused on working for the common good and there was no sign of any parochialism – I am sure that is why they have succeeded in this venture even when some doubters thought that it might not be achievable. Our shared service is already generating interest from several local authorities and is being seen as a model to follow.”
His sentiments were echoed by Cotswold DC Councillor Barry Dare, who is responsible for the newly created GO Shared Services at Cotswold, and he added: “We are always trying to achieve maximum value for Council taxpayers and I think GO Shared Services ticks all the right boxes. We can now do more with less and, in many instances, do it better because we are bringing together a pool of expertise and experience. This may only be the beginning – there is scope to expand the number of partners involved and also the range of services which we can provide.”
Jenny Poole, the Head of GO Shared Services, was justifiably upbeat: “This was no easy task and I would like to thank everyone involved in making it happen, including the Programme Board, the Programme Manager, the Process Leads and staff throughout the Shared Service partnership who worked tirelessly to tackle a very wide range of challenges and occasional setbacks. Working with the Agresso Local Government Platform, we have successfully managed to build a bridge between the partner organisations, and the system has already demonstrated that it has sufficient flexibility to adapt to further business changes we may require, and to the the differing needs of member organisations.”
Anwen Robinson, Managing Director at UNIT4 Business Software Ltd, commented: “The GO partners had no blueprint to follow so they have done exceptionally well to hit their targets. The fact that they will be making savings from October onwards demonstrates that shared services between large public sector organisations can quickly become a success.”