On 4 March 2010, Improvement Efficiency South East (IESE) held a Conference and Awards ceremony in recognition of the achievements of local authorities in the South East. This was the third annual IESE conference and encompassed themes surrounding construction, social care, waste, sustainable communities and procurement. Hart District Council was one of ten councils nominated for the award entitled “making changes”. This award is given to the council most able to demonstrate having instigated major changes resulting in improved working practices. Hart District Council beat off competition from six other short-listed councils to win the prestigious award.
IESE recognised the Council’s difficult financial position as a result of it receiving the lowest per capita level of central government Revenue Support Grant. This, coupled with the council tax capping regime, heavily constrains the Council’s finances. It was noted that the Council has had to make severe cuts in its budget in each of the last three years and needs to make a further 5% cut in net revenue costs for next year.
Despite this the performance of the Council’s services has generally improved. The Council has engaged much more closely with its customers, better understands their needs, and is giving a higher priority to delivering what they want. The Council is also much more active in working with its partners; the Hart Strategic Partnership is growing stronger and a number of other partnerships are also doing good work.
The Council has outsourced its Revenues and Benefits Service, Finance, HR, IT and Customer Services to Capita. It is also exploring a number of shared service options with neighbouring authorities to build upon the success of the Shared Legal Service.
The judges felt that Hart District Council were worthy of the award because they had demonstrated the most changes and improved working practices. The Capita outsource has led to significant financial savings and service improvements including; improved call handling, a more efficient contact centre, implementation of a remote managed HR system, providing consistent and clear HR advice and the introduction of a remote managed IT system and the development of an IT strategy. The financial management system is also in the process of being fully developed, which will provide timely and accurate financial reporting. Cllr Ken Crookes, leader of the Council says “I am delighted that the recent efforts of the council have been recognised. Hart District Council has achieved a lot in the past two years, making its services more efficient and effective and we will continue to improve our services for the residents of the District”.