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Sorry we missed that

South Somerset District Council has gone through a substantial transformation process over the past 4 years. That process has apparently saved money for tax payers. I say apparently because the new systems are opaque and offer very little transparency over what money is being spent on, and how the returns on those investments are performing.

The amount of hard detail and numbers presented in reporting packs for the various SSDC meetings has shrunk significantly.

SSDC has introduced a number of targets against which it measures performance. The final quarter performance figures were released last week.

Yet even as we come to the end of 2018/19, SSDC has still failed to set a target for either of the two economic measures it has chosen: Working age population claiming unemployment benefits (%) and Working age population in employment (%). Neither of which SSDC has a significant degree of control over. What is missing from the targets set for the economy, is any assessment of revenues from investments. these are things which SSDC can control. Be they the Opium Power battery Park or the heavy investment in Westlands Entertainment Centre in Yeovil.

What will the taxpayer of South Somerset will be most interested in, is the performance of the new look SSDC in dealing with customers. So it is interesting to read that in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2018/19 38.7% of callers to SSDC abandoned their call before being put through. This is up from an average of around 9.5% for the previous three quarters of the year. Perhaps we should not be surprised that rather conveninetly no target had been set. we might though ask why not?

A target has been set for the number of calls answered within 2 minutes. That should be 80%. So no doubt SSDC will be disappointed that they actually achieved just 42%. that’s doen from an average of around 65% for the previous three quarters of the year.

If you don’t give up and are prepared to wait more than 2 minutes for someone to answer, what can you expect? Not much if you are a new benefits claimant.

SSDC have not exactly set themselves hard targets for new housing benefits claims. They have said that the average number of days between receipt of the claim and the decision, for all new housing benefit claims should be 20 days. That’s tough if you are stuck for cash. But SSDC by their own figures are only processing claims within 30 days and they’ve missed the target by at least 5 working days in every quarter of the year.

The news is not much better if you are making a claim for council tax benefit. The average number of days between validation a new claim and giving a decision for new Council Tax Support claims is supposed to be 30 days. Again SSDC have missed the target by at least 10 days in every quarter throughout the year and for Q4, the actual performance was 45 days. That means those who need help most, the most vulnerable in the population, are waiting 2 weeks longer.

SSDC’s explanation is this “It has been a challenging quarter with a number of staff having left at the end of December, a backlog of work and a peak period in demand around annual billing/benefit year end work.”

All factors that were predictable or in the control of SSDC. It sounds rather like the flagship transformation programme has not been as well managed as it might be.

 

3 Comments

  1. Ingrid Meecham Reply

    Ask how much transformation has cost and how long it will take SSDC to recoup those costs out of so called savings. Ask the staff how morale is now after so many lost their jobs, the ones that left in December were the last of the redundancies and they only hung on to get their fair entitlement.

  2. Georgia Sandlewood Reply

    Ask how much was spent on compromise agreements with exiting staff members and subsequent costs of agency staff to replace those made redundant

    1. Teresa Sienkiewicz Reply

      According to the accounts, the exit packages cost £871k in 2017-8 (37 staff) and £1.960m 63 staff) in 2018-9 ie the best part of £3m. The text states ‘These officers were made redundant as part of the Authority’s transformation of services.’. The pension cost treatment statement on page 20 states that the general fund is charged with the amount payable not the amount calculated according to relevant accounting standard. Interesting….. I wonder what the actual curtailment costs were?. Page 64 shows that the strategic lead for transformation (how ironic that s/he should be made redundant) received £94k as a redundancy payment and in 2017-8 the strategic director place and performance received £146k as compensation for loss of office. Pretty generous terms for the higher paid staff.

      Re temp staff, you will have to ask under the FoIA

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