Cllr Damian White is the Leader of Havering Council.
A major report has just been published which reveals the country’s most effective councils.
For years now, the word ‘efficiency’ has often been used when trying to determine the country’s best councils and it is no real surprise that that same old names come up – often linked to low council tax.
This report is different. Rather than looking at ‘efficiency’ alone, it focuses on what councils have been achieving for the money that is available. In others words, how are councils using the limited resources at their disposal to improve the lives of the people they serve?
It may not be a surprise to people here to learn that four of the five best councils in the UK are Conservative-led councils, but what may surprise you is the names of them: Leicestershire, East Riding of Yorkshire, Gloucestershire and, my own, Havering.
They may not be the traditional flagship Conservative-led councils, but they are the ones leading the way when it comes to getting best bang for our buck.
The council performance index has been published in an index by IMpower which measures productivity. Havering, it says, is the most effective council in London and fifth overall in the country.
The report says:
“Despite the challenges, some local authorities are managing to outperform their peers, achieving better outcomes for less money.
“The index enables us to answer, pound for pound, which councils are spending their money most effectively and getting the best outcomes for citizens.”
Specifically, it measures outcomes against resources through six different lenses: children’s social care; older people; all age disability; health and social care interface; housing and homelessness; and waste and recycling.
The report shows that councils like mine are doing much more than keeping the lights on. Translated, the performance measures shed a light on services that makes such a difference to people’s lives. From making sure that carers have the right support in place to look after loved ones, through to ensuring that that the right help is in place when elderly people are discharged from hospital. From helping looked-after children to reach their full potential through to safely reducing the number of children in our care by providing greater levels of support to families experiencing problems.
Often this kind of work is out of the public’s gaze unless there is a catastrophic failure – but it is the type of work that makes such a difference.
What are we doing differently in Havering? We have a laser-like focus on making sure that every single penny is spent in the most effective way. In short, austerity has forced us to think this way. It has forced us to look at new ways of delivering services and new ways to boost productivity.
However, this way of thinking has not had a detrimental impact on our community – quite the opposite.
That is why Havering, even though we have had to save £79 million over the past four years, is on an improvement curve rather than a downturn when it comes to improving the lives of local people.
I am not suggesting that we are at the end of the journey in Havering – far from it. The reality is that we have only just started the journey and there is still much more work to do. Yet this report buries the Labour myth that you cannot take out cost while still being effective.