The Public Finance Awards 2020 panel of Judges
Winner: Finance Team, East Lancashire NHS Hospital Trust
A programme that has helped young people who otherwise may not have the opportunity to gain the necessary work experience to enter sustainable employment – with an ultimate aim of recruiting suitable people into the finance department and providing them with the training needed to become stars of the future.
East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust was established in 2003 and is a large integrated healthcare organisation providing high-quality acute secondary healthcare for the people of East Lancashire and Blackburn. Its healthcare services are offered across five hospital sites, and various community sites.
The finance department has considerable impact on the quality of services provided to patients – and also recognises the importance of its social responsibilities, allowing young people the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of how NHS Finance works.
As part of this commitment, a Prince’s Trust training programme is run in-house by the ELHT Careers team. Each cohort receives £6,500 to fund expenses involved in the recruitment process and the running of the programme.
Joining the Prince’s Trust programme gives young people valuable experience, and also helps develop the trust’s own staff, giving junior team members an opportunity to gain training and mentoring skills – in turn improving their own knowledge and understanding of NHS Finance.
Each placed individual is treated like any new starter – provided with a New-Starter Pack, introduced last year to ensure a consistent induction to ELHT Finance and that training is delivered consistently.
Those placed are requested to complete a Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic questionnaire to ensure the trust understands their learning style. While there, they also attend Introduction to Finance training.
Trainees are also given advice and guidance on the careers and qualifications available in NHS Finance – and shown how to use various financial systems and participate in mock interviews.
The scheme has benefited the department and the organisation significantly. It has helped the organisation gain new talent and reduce vacancies. Posts being supported through the Prince’s Trust also mean there is minimal financial impact.
And, for many individuals, the programme can be the start of turning their life around for the better.
Moving forward, the team plans to continue to work with the Prince’s Trust to give more young people the opportunity to experience NHS Finance. And, working from feedback, the team is striving to improve training further – to give trainees the best possible experience.
East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust is also sharing its success with other trusts, through the Value Maker Network.
Judges’ comments: “This entry demonstrated high impact on staff and people and showed engagement with volunteers and groups. Attracting people to the finance profession is clearly having an impact on local lives.”
Winner: UK Overseas Territories Project, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK, Government Internal Audit Agency and National Audit Office
A project demonstrating collaboration between finance professionals, parliamentarians, public accounts committee clerks and CPA UK to build finance, risk and governance-related capacity and capability in the UKOTS.
HM Government promotes sound financial management, financial transparency and good governance in the UK Overseas territories (UKOTS). In 2016, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK, National Audit Office and Government Internal Audit Agency formed the UK Overseas Territories Project (UKOTP) Consortium to support this objective, via an FCO sponsored project.
As part of this, UKOTP consortium members partner with their UKOTS counterparts to provide a series of activities aimed at providing technical assistance, training and mentoring to support and encourage effective public financial management. These include:
- External Audit – the developing of manuals, workshops, and performance support.
- Internal Audit – internal/external quality assessments, inward and outward secondments, visits, conferences, audit committee support.
- Public Accounts Committees (PAC) – attachments, visits, workshops and public enquiry support.
The initiative came about after a 2012 UKOTS whitepaper identified a number of areas for improvement, identifying eight priorities for action. The UKOTP was established to help to address four of these:
- Progressing good governance, public financial management and economic planning.
- Developing democratic institutions that serve and take account of the interests of all the people in the territories.
- Managing public finances sustainably.
- Strengthening assurance that public spending delivers overall value for money.
Since then, consortium partners have used a wide variety of methods to support the UKOTS in addressing the challenges and priorities laid down in the whitepaper:
- Online – sharing materials and holding webinar workshops via the UKOTP Portal, including the NAO development of Financial and Performance Audit Manuals.
- Visits – undertaking reciprocal visits between the territories and the UK, especially important for PAC clerks.
- Secondments – GIAA-facilitated secondments benefiting colleagues from Cayman, Montserrat, St Helena and Turks and Caicos. The Welsh and Scottish Governments’ internal audit functions were particularly generous in supporting this aspect of the project.
- Practical support – CPA UK assisted two UKOTS with introducing and improving public enquiries handling. GIAA provided internal/external quality assessment support to six territories and sourced audit committee members for two. The NAO assisted with the undertaking of performance audits on major capital projects in five territories.
- Round tables – all three consortium members have led round table at two three-day UKOTS Forums, with another to follow in December 2019.
These UKOTP activities have delivered significant results across a number of areas:
- Fundamentals – UKOTS Financial and Performance Audit Manuals are now developed. Support to Anguilla and Montserrat PACs has also been provided on holding public enquiries.
- Capacity and capability – ten attachments/secondments for PAC clerks and internal auditors have been made to broaden and deepen experience. Leadership groups have also been established for UKOTS Auditors General and Heads of Internal Audit.
- Planning, risk and performance – the NAO supported five UKOTS teams through Performance Audits of major capital projects. Cayman Islands Government established an audit committee and an enterprise risk management system due to GIAA’s Internal Quality Assessment support.
- Quality – five UKOTS internal audit services now have action plans in place to improve their service against international standards and further develop their auditors after receiving internal and external quality assessment support.
- Trusted partner – early beneficiaries, such as St Helena, Montserrat and Cayman, have developed relationships with consortium members beyond the project. The FCO also extended project funding due to the results obtained.
In addition, UKTOP team members across the consortium have built lasting working relationships with the UKOTS participants.
Judges’ comments: “This entry stood out as being different and one that has the potential to make a substantial impact. It addresses a recognised problem and is robust in its oversight. Government departments with interests abroad can replicate success with this approach.”
Winner: Catherine Hamilton, NHS Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group
A new model of care for infants with Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy that delivers rapid-access virtual dietician appointments – supported by patient information and advice on a Smartphone Application – that has reduced the activity costs of service delivery and reduced the waiting time to see a dietician from six months to just two weeks.
Mid Essex CCG is responsible for commissioning local health services. It has an annual budget of £447 million to spend on healthcare for people living in Maldon, Braintree and the City of Chelmsford. The health services it buys include:
- Community services, such as district nursing, speech and language therapy, podiatry, community hospitals and stroke rehabilitation.
- Mental-health services.
- Non-emergency patient transport.
- Continuing health care.
- Acute hospital services, integrated urgent care including NHS 111 and emergency ambulance transport.
Historically, when cases of Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) were first suspected by community-based health visitors, they were unable to make a direct referral. As a result, patients would be asked to see their GP with, on average, infants then having four GP appointments before being referred to a consultant paediatrician. GPs were also unable to directly refer cases to a dietician, meaning a paediatrician would also need to review the patient before making a referral.
As a result of all of this, the pathway usually took more than six months – during which time infants were prescribed increasingly expensive milks – as GPs were not sufficiently expert to offer the dietary support. And, as diagnosis was undertaken by the dietician and 40% of infants referred were found to not actually have CMPA, there was significant over-diagnosis, resulting in further wasted resource.
In fact, Mid Essex CCG was spending more than £2,000 a year per 1,000 children under the age of five on infant formula, compared with an NHS average of £1,500; while 52% of Mid Essex infants were receiving hospital paediatrician input despite guidance suggesting most could be managed in the community. At least 50% of infants on CMPA formulas were never seen by a dietician.
In response to these issues, an alternative service was devised, in partnership with a company called Oviva, which offers remote dietetic care. Under the new delivery model, patients suspected as having CMPA are identified by GPs on the basis of having a symptom score of 12 or more (using a nationally recognised CMPA symptom score called CoMiSS). These patients are then referred to the Oviva Rapid Access Clinic. Oviva contacts patients within 72 hours of receiving the referral and arranges a virtual appointment with a dietician – registering the patient to use the bespoke CMPA Smartphone Application. A dietician appointment then takes place over Skype, within two weeks, and infants are followed up with virtually – to confirm diagnosis, support weaning and re-introduce milk products safely. Dieticians also support GPs with advice on choice and quantities of milks to prescribe, in line with local guidelines.
This service was launched in May 2019 and has resulted in cost reductions from £89,000 per year under the previous model to £62,000 per year now. An audit of prescribing of CMPA formula has estimated that, within just five months of the service being implemented, a £50,000 reduction in prescribing spend had been realised.
The Group is now also collating patient experience data, and 100% of parents who complete this have stated they are either satisfied or completely satisfied, and would recommend the service to others.
For phase two of the project, the Group and the provider are working with health visitors and community pharmacists to develop a ‘voucher scheme’ service for CMPA infant milks.
Judges’ comments: “This was a small but impactful initiative, with clear identification of issues, a great example of collaboration, and great use of technology – resulting in reduced cost, a clearer care pathway and a positive impact on patient satisfaction.”
Winner: Our Manchester Social Value through Progressive Procurement, Manchester City Council
Devising and delivering a social value programme that not only has a direct impact on local communities but has also delivered indirect benefits by onboarding suppliers that re-invest money into the local area – this project has delivered more than a decade of results.
Manchester has seen unprecedented population growth over the past two decades, particularly in the city centre and surrounding wards. It continues to be a diverse community, welcoming people from around the world.
However, Manchester is also the local authority district with the fifth-highest proportion of neighbourhoods in the most deprived 10 per cent of neighbourhoods nationally – and the council faced a challenge to make its growth inclusive – so more residents could share in this success.
In response, Manchester City Council developed a social value programme that, more than ten years on, continues to deliver tangible benefits for local people, communities and businesses.
As part of the programme, the council set itself the objective of maximising the positive impacts that can be derived from its £500m procurement spend on goods, services and works – to the benefit of all its communities. These included:
- Raising the living standards of local residents
- Promoting participation and citizen engagement
- Building the capacity and sustainability of the voluntary and community sector
- Promoting equity and fairness
- Promoting environmental sustainability
To meet these objectives, the authority set about changing its culture and raising awareness of social value within the council and among its suppliers, service providers and contractors – especially those who weren’t necessarily bought-in to social value.
Following cross-sector consultation, in 2008 the council produced a sustainable procurement policy, accompanied by a statement of intent setting out how the policy would be implemented. It engaged the CLES (Centre for Local Economic Strategies) to measure the impact of its procurement spend and establish a baseline from which it could build. In 2014, the authority was also instrumental in the development of the GMCA Social Value Policy, which was subsequently adopted by the council. And, in 2015, it stepped up a gear through the championing of the executive member for finance and human resources.
This was essential to changing the culture and creating consistency. The council immediately increased the weighting allocated to social value – to at least 20% of the overall contract award criteria. This sent an important signal to suppliers that they needed to step up their approach to social value and improve their impact on communities if they wanted to win Manchester contracts. To strengthen its strategy further, the council also developed an Ethical Procurement Policy that set out the behaviours it expects of its supply chain members.
In a practical sense, this meant projects would no longer be signed off unless social value was adequately addressed. The council also developed a social-value toolkit for commissioners, and introduced extensive briefings to help increase understanding. A supplier toolkit has also been produced to support potential suppliers through the tender process.
The outcomes have been clear and demonstrable. Ten years ago, only half Manchester City Council’s spending stayed in Manchester. In 2017/18 nearly three-quarters was spent with Manchester-based suppliers. They in turn put £119m back into Manchester’s economy – into local employers and suppliers.
In the last four years, the council has increased its spend with SMEs by 20% – to 62%. Some 1,302 jobs and 665 apprenticeships have been created by suppliers alone and 1,788 of the hardest-to-reach Manchester people have been brought into work.
Furthermore, 64% of Manchester City Council’s suppliers now actively provide support to the voluntary and community sector, and the council is now using these examples to promote good practice to suppliers supporting other priority groups, including:
- Looked after children and care leavers
- Helping long-term unemployed people with an underlying health condition and/or complex needs
- Supporting disabled people
- Helping older people, specifically adults over 50 who are economically inactive and/or in poor health
- Supporting vulnerable adults overcoming a crisis
However, the story doesn’t end there. Manchester City Council will shortly increase its social value contract evaluation weighting to 30% – with a third of that dedicated to environmental issues. It will implement a newly developed social value e-learning package to increase staff awareness, and further embed social value into contract management processes and systems. In addition, it plans to link up social value opportunities with those that will benefit the most.
Judges’ comments: “A strong entry harnessing public spending power to deliver social outcome. Delivering this kind of approach can be challenging, particularly in times of austerity – when the focus is on procuring at the lowest cost”
Winner: Finance Team, University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh has spearheaded the use of Integrated Reporting in the Higher Education sector, to deliver informative financial accounts that are balanced with a vivid narrative and an eye-catching and engaging creative layout.
The University of Edinburgh is home to more than 14,500 staff and 41,000 students. As a global University, rooted in Scotland’s capital city, it has a responsibility to all its stakeholders, both local and global, to report an integrated position that reflects social impact and value. Edinburgh has combined this responsibility with its statutory responsibilities as a publicly funded body to report a fully integrated position that shows how it uses all the capitals available to it in a sustainable and socially responsible way.
The university’s financial review simplifies the complexity of the financial reporting requirements under FRSI 02. It does this through the use of graphics, charts and storytelling, which it also uses to help all readers better understand the Annual Report and Accounts.
To achieve its objectives, the university set up individual briefing sessions with key stakeholders, looking at how its integrated report should be presented. These included student representatives and members of Court, its governing body. Engaging stakeholders early helped ensure the annual report and accounts were ‘demystified’, and allowed for the stories to be gathered from across the University that truly reflected the depth and breadth of its work – from community work to supporting refugee academics. Student photographers were also used to help make sure the student experience was truly reflected, putting students at the heart of reporting. The university also produced videos to answer the question: ‘What does the Annual Report and Accounts mean to me?’.
As a civic institution, it’s also important the public is kept informed of the university’s work. With this in mind, the university launched an exhibition to highlight the link between the story it tells in the annual report and students’ experiences.
By reporting on all the various types of capitals that the university uses in its value creation model, rather than just financial capital, the university has been able to look strategically at its impact and value creation in other areas. For example, after looking at the social and environmental impact of its investments, it introduced a socially responsible investment policy that saw it withdraw from investments in the arms and tobacco industries, as well as a commitment to divest from fossil fuel investment by the end of 2020. Integrated Reporting has also helped the university drive social investments, by committing up to £8m of its treasury funds for social enterprises.
To build on this, the university has committed to observing the latest developments in Integrated Reporting, so it can measure impact and continually improve its work.
Judges’ comments: “A good approach and innovative new ideas. The university changed the narrative to improve reporting, and devised a comprehensive strategy to launch its report.”
Winner: Counter Fraud Services Team, NHS Scotland
An exceptional inter-team and external stakeholder collaboration that has proactively detected and recovered monies intended for patient care.
NHS Scotland is the single biggest public authority in Scotland, with an overall annual budget of around £13bn. It employs around 160,000 staff across its 22 Health Boards, holds contracts with almost 10,000 practitioners to provide medical, dental, pharmaceutical and ophthalmic provision, and engages thousands of external creditors/suppliers
NHS Scotland Counter Fraud Services Team protects Scotland’s health from the impact of financial crime by providing NHS staff with specialist counter-fraud solutions. The Detection sub-team identifies and assesses data to build an accurate picture of the fraud risks facing NHS Scotland, and works across the public sector to develop intelligence-led, joined-up approaches to countering fraud.
The CFS team uses a strategic intelligence assessment to highlight the most serious current and emerging fraud risks to NHS Scotland. By analysing data, information and intelligence from various sources and partners, the team monitors procurement fraud, primary care contractor fraud and patient-exemption payment evasion.
This intelligence-led approach ensures that the team puts the right resources in the right place at the right time to reduce losses.
The approach has resulted in a number of recent success.
For example, with the knowledge that a significant number of ophthalmic and dental patients were wrongly claiming exemption to their treatment costs, the team used a blend of initiatives to reduce the loss. In fact, as a result, between 2015 and 2018, the team reduced the annual level of incorrect payments claimed by more than £2m.
In response to the threat of cyber-enabled crime, particularly procurement-related bank mandate fraud, the team created a series of cybercrime videos to warn NHS staff about the risks from socially engineered attacks. Produced in collaboration with Dr Karen Renaud, Professor of Cybercrime at Abertay University, the series of short videos advises on best-practices for avoiding being manipulated and exploited by fraudsters.
Judges’ comments: “Fantastic use of behavioural insights and collaboration that delivered exceptional results on patient exemptions fraud in particular.”
Winner: James Leaver, Stavros Ballas, Cornwall NHS Procurement Service Team, Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust
The implementation of a digital procurement system – at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, one of the six trusts selected as the Department of Health’s Scan4Safety demonstrator sites – that has delivered great efficiency.
NHS trusts are under immense scrutiny, facing pressure to improve flawed approaches around the management of supplies and to adopt new technologies that can improve procurement and supply chain operations.
High-profile scandals on procurement and supply chain operations in the NHS have particularly stressed the urgent need for track and trace capabilities of all medical supplies and devices – in order to eliminate ‘never events’, to ensure positive patient outcomes, and improve patient safety.
For Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, understanding the costs of products used on specific patients was a specific opportunity to move towards outcome-based procurement.
The trust needed a solution to help meet government requirements for inventory management (e-procurement strategy, GS1 standards, PEPPOL, patient-level costing, track and trace), and to build a picture of usage – for example, where and when products are used on patients.
By modernising processes and creating more efficient working practices, RCHT began to use technology to ensure that good real-time data was driving all purchasing decisions, enabling improved supply chain and procurement practices. This culminated in the implementation of Ingenica Solutions 360 IM system – which uses barcoding to track and trace products and supplies from receipt to point of patient use.
The solution was initially implemented in the busiest, most-challenging and highest-spend area of the hospital – the operating theatres – with the aim of providing an organisation-wide view of inventory levels.
Following that initial stage, RCHT rolled the system out across the trust – achieving procurement and supply chain excellence across the board.
Details on product ranges and usage now inform better procurement decisions and have reduced unwarranted variation. It has also helped drive better ways of working, enabling RCHT to take control of the supply chain, drive much needed savings and efficiencies, and release clinical time back to care. But most importantly, the project has had a positive impact on patient care.
Judges’ comments: “An example of a successful procurement and implementation programme that reduced costs and increased patient safety. It demonstrated good engagement beyond procurement teams.”
Winner: 360 Assurance and Audit Yorkshire Events and Publications Team, 360 Assurance/Audit Yorkshire
The delivery of an extensive programme by the audit team, to support NHS organisations through interactive and informative quarterly learning events; tools to support audit committees in assessing the way they obtain and scrutinise assurances; benchmarking reports; and discussion papers.
As internal audit providers, both 360 Assurance and Audit Yorkshire take a proactive approach to supporting their clients in enhancing and improving their governance, risk management and internal controls.
This is key to the success of any organisation. A forward looking audit committee, with a direct influence on board-level activities and a role ensuring there is scrutiny and challenge within the wider organisation, is pivotal.
Following extensive reviews of governance arrangements across 360 Assurance and Audit Yorkshire’s client bases, it became clear that, faced with the pace of change and increasingly complex stakeholder arrangements, audit committees would benefit from a targeted programme of support.
It was also recognised that there existed differing levels of knowledge and confidence among clients’ NEDs/lay members around the role of the audit committee and its relationship with other board/governing body committees.
Initially, the partnership decided to schedule quarterly events for client NEDs/lay members. They decided to link the programme with the committees – the first event being primarily focused on the audit committee.
Having determined the structure, the team identified the pieces of work that could inform or result from each event. At the first event, the former chairman of the Good Governance Institute was commissioned to support 360 Assurance and Audit Yorkshire in developing an Audit Committee Maturity Matrix, used to facilitate self-assessment across 15 governance areas.
This matrix has now been used by a number of clients to support their audit committee self-assessment process. Following on from the success of this maturity matrix, the partnership has developed a Quality Improvement Internal Audit Framework, providing a similar focus. It also identified benchmarking that could be undertaken to help inform events.
Audit committees can now easily reflect on their own internal arrangements using our messages and prompts on common issues, which in turn helps them reassess their own arrangements.
The programme is ongoing, with events scheduled throughout the year. Feedback is obtained following each event, which is combined with horizon scanning, to continually improve the events and ensure the topics are those most pertinent to clients.
As part of the NHS, the two organisations recognise that, when initiatives work well and have proven benefits, there is a responsibility to share wider. They have done this by making all the publications available on their websites.
Judges’ comments: “Accompanied by strong support evidence on the impact of the work, the initiatives have encouraged good joint working and helped created the right environment to improving audit.”
Winner: Robotic Process Automation Project, NHS Shared Business Services
The deployment of robots to carry out repetitive tasks across 300 NHS departments has freed up 200,000 man hours, released significant cost-savings and improved client satisfaction by 700%.
NHS Shared Business Services provides a finance and accounting service to 300 different NHS organisations, including 75 provider trusts and all commissioners in England. By digitalising transactional processes, it aims to continually enhance the lives of NHS clients. Its strategy is underpinned by a commitment to invest in technology innovations, such as robotics, to deliver a digital, touchless on-demand service that improves the speed and accuracy of financial processing – freeing up clients for more value-add activities and saving the NHS money to be invested in to patient care.
As part of this, NHS SBS wanted to enhance the user-experience for clients through greater consistency, improved controls, better service quality, faster turnaround times and quicker response times.
Working with clients and other key partners, it comprehensively mapped hundreds of financial processes that were then automated using robotics technology – meaning technology could be used to carry out a significant number of repetitive and labour-intensive tasks and tasks often prone to human error.
The project delivered on its objective to improve the core day-to-day service it provides to around 300 NHS organisations. The key measure for this was the huge increase in client satisfaction – measured through the Net Promoter Score, which has improved by 700% since June 2018.
Additional results and measurable benefits included:
- The processing time for cost centre sales, receivable items and receivable activities reduced from 48 hours to four hours.
- Account validation processing time reduced from seven minutes to 4.38 seconds.
- Foreign-exchange rates waiting time reduced from 168 hours to 24 hours.
- The processing time for tax and National Insurance reduced from 12 minutes to 2.5 minutes.
- Chart-of-accounts response time reduced from 40 hours to 30 minutes.
By removing mundane and time-consuming tasks, the deployment of robots to carry out repetitive tasks across the 300 NHS departments has also freed up 200,000 man hours.
Judges’ comments: “A modern and forward-thinking project that delivered significant results to the frontline.”
Claire McGivern, Steve O’Reilly, Adam Abdul, Graham Crook, David Moores, Andy Warburton, Annabelle Taylor, Brent Kirkham, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
A finance-team-driven initiative that has helped Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman – which makes final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by parliamentary and health service bodies – move from being in crisis to becoming an exemplary Ombudsman service.
This finance team, which includes team members Claire McGivern, Steve O’Reilly, Adam Abdul, Graham Crook, David Moores, Andy Warburton, Annabelle Taylor and Brent Kirkham, has played a crucial role in helping the ombudsman improve its level of delivery.
The team set bout this task by drawing up a detailed list of objectives. These were:
- Supporting PHSO to become an exemplary ombudsman through ensuring robust financial management arrangements are in place.
- Supporting all stakeholders across the organisation through excellent finance, procurement and payroll services that meet the needs of the various stakeholders and supports strategic decision making.
- Working collaboratively across the business to develop and deliver financial plans that support the PHSO strategy.
- Working closely with and developing mutual trust with key external stakeholders (HM Treasury, National Audit Office and Internal Audit Provider).
- Providing financial coaching and advice to budget holders to increase financial acumen and resilience across the organisation.
- Providing assurance to the PHSO Audit & Risk Assurance Committee (ARAC) and the board on all aspects of financial management, payroll and procurement.
- Delivering high-quality financial statements and information in line with best practice.
- Developing innovative improvements to services.
To help achieve these objectives, the team has built a robust financial control framework, created a new Finance Code and Manual, and implemented changes that have both closed the gaps in the control framework and provided assurance to those charged with governance.
At the same time, the finance team has led the development of the 2015/19 financial strategy. Working closely with partners from across the business, it has developed a savings package that has not only delivered a 24% reduction in costs but also enabled complete transformation of the PHSO.
The team has helped implement a completely new operating model, which required an organisation-wide restructure of all 450 posts and the relocation of 100 staff from London to Manchester. This in turn required new premises in Manchester and London. But the change also helped enable a cultural transformation, which has been key to the turnaround of the organisation and to demonstrating that the PHSO provides value for money.
This transformation has been underpinned by a new corporate strategy, which sets out the ambition to be an exemplary ombudsman service. This required financial agility and resilience – with new ways of working releasing further savings, meaning the strategy could be delivered without impacting casework quality and outcomes.
The team has also worked to build stronger relationships with HM Treasury, and developed a business case for capital funding of £1m to support its relocation. A further successful business case secured £1.5m for a complete refresh of ICT infrastructure, identified as a being critical to delivering exemplary ombudsman services.
The PHSO is now considered a well-governed organisation that delivers value for money, with an ambitious strategy to become an exemplary ombudsman service. The finance team was key to delivering:
- Strong financial governance and control.
- A new operating model (requiring whole organisation restructure).
- Professionalisation of casework through significant investment for all caseworkers in professional skills training for caseworkers.
- Relocation to Manchester in modern accommodation whilst securing VFM in new lease arrangements (delivered savings of over £2m).
- Resources to eliminate the casework queue.
- Investment to pump prime pilots for mediation and early dispute resolution, to provide early resolution for complainants.
The team has worked with managers to improve financial skills across the organisation, delivering the 24% savings required to deliver the investment needed to transform the service.
Judges’ comments: “This project was a step-change with measurable improvement. Evidence to support the award/bid was strong, and Auditor and Stakeholder commendation is recognised by the judges.”
Finance Delivery Unit, NHS Wales
A Finance Delivery Unit, established in 2018 to drive financial improvement, which has had a significant impact in a short timeframe, and been recognised across NHS Wales.
The NHS Wales Finance Delivery Unit is a team of thirteen people, comprising a director and deputy, and a senior finance and analyst team. The team is made up of a mix of experienced finance professionals, who bring deep understanding to the programme and outputs, together with subject-matter experts in the fields of costing and informatics, and newly and part-qualified accountants with experience of other sectors and who bring new and innovative ideas and ways of working.
The unit holds whole-team meetings on a monthly basis, with all members of the team encouraged to shape the agenda. Further, six monthly team away days are held to ensure time out to focus on team development and strategic priorities.
At the first of these away days, a session was held to develop the unit’s mission, vision and values. The unit set three clear objectives:
- To be recognised as a centre of excellence for intelligence and insight.
- To demonstrably add value to NHS Wales.
- To support sustainable improvement across all levels of NHS Wales.
To achieve these objectives, the work programme was divided into four clear areas:
- Support and Challenge: develop, test and implement a financial intervention framework and methodology to support organisations in escalation and undertake quality financial analysis feeding into planning, monitoring and escalation meetings.
- Intelligence and Insight: develop an Efficiency Framework of improvement opportunities, an analytics centre of excellence providing meaningful insight, and work with NHS Wales to maximise use of patient level costing and benchmarking data.
- Best-Practice Financial Management: support the Finance Academy in developing a Good Practice Guide to Forecasting and a phased financial improvement plan informed by a maturity matrix.
- Value-Based Healthcare: develop capacity and capability in value-based healthcare across Wales and support organisations in implementing this approach
In working to implement these four areas of the work programme, the unit has had a significant impact on financial performance in a short time. During 2018-19, all organisations bar one achieved their allocated control total. Further improvements were seen in 2019-20, with the organisation de-escalated from targeted intervention to enhanced monitoring, and subsequently routine monitoring. There has also been a stabilisation of the overall NHS Wales financial position. This was achieved through a multi-pronged approach focused on scrutiny, identification of opportunities, and consistency.
A key factor of these result has been the use of the Efficiency Framework to support organisations with the identification of opportunities. Organisations can submit requests for bespoke pieces of work, responding to their needs. Some organisations have incorporated a direct link to the Framework within their financial system.
Focusing on a learning culture has also been fundamental to the success of the unit. Ambitious personal development plans are now in place for all members of the team, including a range of development activity. The unit will host graduate and talent pipeline placements, enabling a new cadre of finance professionals to take learning back into their home organisations.
The unit will in future become part of the NHS Executive, providing strong leadership and strategic direction to NHS Wales.
Judges’ comments: “With its strong focus on learning and development culture, this entry demonstrated great local and national collaboration across professions.”
Finance Services Team, London Borough of Waltham Forest
A finance department that has played a pivotal role in delivering better outcomes for residents – having supported the organisation to deliver savings of £100m-plus since 2010 and championing a culture of return-on-investment and collaboration.
Waltham Forest Council’s finance department plays a pivotal role in delivering and enabling better outcomes for residents.
Following a large-scale consultation with residents, the council set three objectives:
- Keep Waltham Forest clean and safe.
- Ensure a decent roof over residents’ heads.
- Improve residents’ life chances.
To support the delivery of these overarching priorities, the finance department set out to:
- Ensure strong and secure financial governance and resilience across the entire organisation.
- Maximise financial and social returns on investment.
- Maximise financial and social value in all procurement activity.
- Maximise income from council tax and business rates.
- Ensure financial support and housing benefit were provided to all entitled residents.
At the heart of achieving these aims and objectives has been the finance team’s working culture and diverse make up. A strong balance between public and private sector experience, and a mix of graduates, trainees and expert professionals, has resulted in a dynamic, communicative and fruitful working culture and strong motivation among the team to keep delivering results.
The department champions the benefits of sharing services with other local authorities and working in partnership with other council services – always keeping the focus on residents’ outcomes.
However, the department’s stand-out feature is its dedication to achieving total return-on-investment – with a shared belief in the power of social and financial returns.
Having tackled austerity early on, and having delivered more than £100m in savings since 2010, Waltham Forest now has the lowest savings target in London – and has established a £20m investment pot.
Its successful commercial activities include:
- Purchasing EMD cinema – a decaying building that be transformed into a 1,000-seat venue, delivering a financial return estimated at between £34-52million over ten years.
- Waltham Forest Developments – a council company investing in and maintaining new developments. This provides an additional income stream while also addressing the housing shortage through 900 planned new homes.
The authority also has a joint venture with Mears Group, moving 400 homeless households into permanent accommodation, reducing the organisation’s employee pension contributions and, in 40 years’ time, adding 400 assets to the council’s portfolio.
Waltham Forest Council’s finance team has not only delivered a solid financial base, healthy reserves and an exceptional reputation among its local government peers – but it has also supported the organisation in investing in improvements for residents.
Judges’ comments: “Strong evidence of building a team with diverse experience and skills, a commitment to learning from others, co-operation across the council and the creation of an investment pot to stimulate radical ideas.”
Staffordshire Police Finance and Commercial Services Team
A team that has supported delivering a successful turnaround of the organisation’s financial position, implementing and delivering a financial recovery plan as well as improving its service offer
Staffordshire Police Finance and Commercial Services Team has, over the past 18 months, delivered a complete turnaround of it finances
To achieve this, the team has focused on gaining organisational trust via a number of initiatives.
To begin, it introduced significant improvements in the field of financial management, including more accurate and faster provision of financial data (halving the time taken for information to be received by decision-makers); a revised multi-year Medium Term Financial Plan, and a revised deliverable savings plan. These improvements have been noted through internal audit reports, moving financial management from ‘limited assurance’ to ‘substantial assurance’.
The team also has delivered substantial procurement savings over the past 12 months, moving from having no recorded savings to achieving greatest savings nationally, based on Home Office statistics. Other key achievements in contract management have seen significant improvement in the services provided to the Force by third-parties, evidenced through internal audit reports.
These initiatives, among others, have moved the Force up the national HM Inspectorate of Constabulary rating from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’ in the field of ‘planning for the future’.
The organisation delivered an underspend last year for the first time in a number of years, creating the opportunity to reinvest back into service provision.
What’s more, the Force has more than doubled the size of its usable reserves over the last 12 months, contributing to increased stability and the ability to take greater organisational risk around transformation.
Judges’ comments: “Impressive focus on the team dynamic and support within the team. The entry told a clear story on improvement and building on that improvement.”
Adam Hopley, Financial Planning Principal Accountant, North Lincolnshire Council
An exemplary individual with a quick and enquiring mind, Adam has brought a fresh perspective to North Lincolnshire Council. With reduced resources and scaled-back teams, Adam entered into local government finance profession at an incredibly challenging time. His self-directed approach has been to work smarter, reforming areas of finance that had not been changed for years.
Having achieved three grade As at A-level, Adam attended Lancaster University to study Accounting and Economics. After graduation, he applied for a place on the LGA-run National Graduate Development Programme and, despite competition from more than 2,500 others, successfully obtained a place in the programme.
From 2012-14, Adam undertook three placements with North Lincolnshire Council, securing a trainee accountant role. As part of this position, he undertook his chartered accountancy training with CIPFA. He has since been promoted twice, and is now financial planning principal accountant – playing a leading role in setting a medium-term financial plan and monitoring financial reporting for the council.
During his three years in Financial Planning, councils across the country have been faced with significant financial challenges. Adam has remained level headed throughout, helping North Lincolnshire deliver its expenditure aspirations in a time of declining resources.
When Adam moved into the role, he inherited long-established practices and processes that had not been updated for some time. Over the course of three years, he has reviewed all processes and modernised many to ensure they meet the strategic needs of the council. In most cases, the outputs have improved significantly in terms of quality, yet take less time to produce.
Adam is strategic in nature and is an extremely fast learner. His charismatic personality endears him to his colleagues and provides him with the basis for strong working relationships that enable him to challenge constructively – always with the aim of improve standards, processes and outcomes front of hi mind. Further, things are done.
Adam’s approach has improved standards across the council. When he started in his role, he entered into a traditional team, one in which the focus was very much on carrying out long-established processes correctly. Adam has overhauled this approach, meaning that his colleagues have been empowered to think and work differently, as well as take real ownership of their work.
Judges’ comments: “The judges have praised Adams career to date and predict he will rise to the top of his profession.”
Leigh Whitehouse, Executive Director of Resources, Surrey County Council
Strong leadership in the face of adversity has put the organisation in the best-possible position.
Leigh began his career at the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham as a trainee accountant, having studied law at the University of Hull. Having left Hammersmith and Fulham to become the head of financial planning at the London Borough of Hillingdon, he returned two-and-a-half years later as an assistant director, before becoming the deputy director of finance.
In 2010, he moved to the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames as director of finance, just in time to catch the start of austerity. In 2017 he joined Bexley as the interim director of finance and corporate services, before joining Surrey in 2018, initially on an interim basis and at a time of extreme financial pressure – following a critical review of the council’s financial capabilities.
Leigh became Surrey’s executive director of resources on a permanent basis in 2019 – joining in the wake of a report commissioned from CIPFA which criticised the council’s financial management capability and warned its finances were fragile.
He led the Finance Improvement Programme with two main objectives: transforming financial management in the council, and stabilising the council’s financial position. The programme was launched via a report to Cabinet in September 2018 and closed successfully at the same forum.
Having led the successful transformation of the council’s finance function, and having stabilised its overall financial position, Leigh is now focused on ensuring that all the services within the esources Directorate are fit for the future, and that the division is seen as a ‘true business partner’ to the organisation.
Having a secure financial base has meant that the organisation has been able to priorities assisted local communities and residents. It has also allowed it to focus on important service transformations, such as in children’s social care, where recent improvements have started to turn around a long period of under-performance.
SCC’s financial recovery has seen a shift from the brink of a Section 114 notice to relative financial stability. The council recently announced the selection of Unit4’s Business World as its new ERP solution, and Leigh is the executive sponsor, leading the implementation over the next two years.
The Judges applauded Leigh for the tremendous impact he has made at Surrey, with his leadership being instrumental to the council’s transformation. Calm, focused and empathetic in his approach, Leigh is also dedicated to bringing on the next generation of finance leaders.
Xantura and Thurrock Council
A collaboration that has created a pioneering new service to enable councils to collate previously siloed data sources into one single view of debt.
Thurrock introduced its current Fair Debt Policy and Vulnerability Guidelines in 2009, and has continued to review and update them since. However, the technology constraints within the council meant that the process for cross referencing the details of individuals with debts against vulnerability data from other departments occurred late in the cycle or not at all – leading to inappropriate chasing of debt as well as potential disruption to other support services. This was both time-consuming and expensive and, critically, posed considerable risk to vulnerable individuals in the early stages of the debt collection process. Additionally, money was being unnecessarily chasing debt that could not be repaid.
In response to these issues, technology supplier Xantura and Thurrock devised a ‘single view of debt’ solution – to provide a detailed picture of the overall debt position of individuals and highlight if the person is already receiving support or has a wider vulnerability that should be considered when making decisions around debt collection.
There were three primary requirements from Thurrock Council. First, the system had to tackle the complex issue of collecting and matching multiple council data sets from several different departments, while adhering to the strict information governance criteria of the council. Second, it had to provide an excellent user-experience for the council staff. And the service needed to provide a valuable set of aggregated management information to inform future policy.
Despite the fact the new system has only recently been implemented, it has already had a huge impact on the way the council views and interprets its debtor book at a management level. It has also paved the way for a second phase, where Thurrock and Xantura will use the available data to map out specific collection pathways based on individual circumstances.
Judges’ comments: “Really good citizen focus, taking an innovative approach to distress. This is something that is not seen widely and that will have an impact on the organisation and people.”
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