Regulator hub potential

As part of a transformation project, the council set about exploring ways in which it could operate regulatory activity more effectively and efficiently. This case study forms part of the productivity experts resource.

Efficiency and income generation

The Secretary of State is similarly driving forward Primary Authority Partnerships to help coordinate cross-council regulator activity to businesses and to strengthen economic futures.

Whilst revenue generation was a key driver, the project also set about achieving financial transparency, evaluation of current activity as well as encouraging relevant improvements and/or exit strategies.

The impact of the Productivity Experts Programme has helped identify operational efficiencies, actively championed business improvements and enabled the council to realise its potential. It also helped the council to assess the viability of the income generation and understand how it could be reframed to achieve wider benefits.

The challenge

The national Cross Council Revenue Group (CCRG) highlights many councils across the country are actively investing time and effort towards developing enterprising cultures. Common themes indicate ambitions towards creating sustainable futures on small and large scale.

West Sussex County Council is a non-unitary authority providing services to more than 850,000 residents every day and is home to approximately 45,000 businesses.

West Sussex is facing considerable financial challenge through reduced government funding as well as increased demand on services. Other challenges include the ambition to develop an organisational culture that is agile towards economic change and innovation.

A transformation programme including a specific project on income generation was already underway and successfully applied to the LGA for grant funding. The ambition was to explore and develop options towards harnessing a more enterprise-driven mind-set within both senior and operational management.

The Regulators have been identified by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy as having a key role to play in the Economic Development strategy of the UK. Consistent feedback from polls suggests that businesses do not draw a distinction between County Council and District and Borough Regulators. Equally, West Sussex recognise that a number of its own council services interact with local businesses on a regular basis for many reasons including statutory.

The solution

With a track record of successfully helping councils Archemys was chosen as the productivity expert consultancy firm.

In line with our ambition to maximise income opportunities the project set out to achieve efficiencies where possible and to focus on a realistic project plan:

  • Trail-blaze the roadmap to becoming an Enterprise Council by developing efficient operations which ensure Regulatory services can sustainably self-fund.
  • Protect and serve the interests of consumers by:
    • Raising consumer expectations of business safety standards across the region
    • Minimising opportunities for inept and rogue traders.

  • Materially improve the Council’s reputation for customer satisfaction by implementing business improvements and transforming the Regulators’ reputation from ‘Enforcers’ to ‘Trusted Advisors who help businesses to thrive in West Sussex’.

Structured workshops were held in early 2018 for income focused senior and operational stakeholders. During these workshops common themes were identified along with process complexities which helped shaped realistic programme outcomes. In addition, operational areas were identified such as data intelligence, different IT systems, knowledge and skills all with a growing demand to do more with less.

Archemys provided private sector business models, tools and techniques as well as a range of possible solutions. They helped share their methodology and essential steps for beginning a commercial journey. Their focus towards ‘the point of the spear’ encouraged recognition towards ‘resourcefulness over resourceful’.  Meaning, it’s not about more resource but more about realigning roles to ensure efforts are focused on the right areas and in the right.

A detailed product line and potential business subscription option was produced, detailing how income could be generated without detracting from core principles or social value objectives. This included products lines such as Trading Standards Food Allergen courses, gain and maintain workshops and firework training.

Ideas towards creating a consultancy service were captured along with longer term growth options. Likewise, a number of duplication areas were identified whereby the council is potentially missing income opportunities and/or services could improve ways of working.

Engagement with local West Sussex businesses informed us of confusion when seeking West Sussex advice, guidance, licence, permits and so on. Feedback also indicated a preference towards a one-stop-shop from the regulators. Saving time and effort for local businesses, strengthening awareness of category related compliance requirements, training and so on.

The impact

       
The process has helped to positively open mindsets towards new ways of working, to encourage different thinking and recognise the steps which need to be taken towards being commercially-minded.

The workshops were particularly helpful in encouraging behaviour change as there is often a mindset that the public sector cannot operate like the private sector.  However, Archemys helped us recognise our true value and parameters in which to comply with legal powers within the public sector.  They encouraged us to not shy away from harnessing private sector thinking when it comes to business operations and/or recruiting commercial skills/expertise.

Following the workshops, service engagement and product analysis we concluded that the regulatory one-stop-shop ambition was not feasible at present. This was in part due to the viability of the opportunity, but also the timing of the initiative, given wider changes within the council which had taken place after the project’s inception.

The programme has been an invaluable process as it has helped us to fully understand individual service lines, influence cross-promotional opportunities and optimise current income channel opportunities. The council has been able to scale up the learning to other teams, providing additional benefits overall to the council.

The process has helped provide a much stronger foundation in which to grow income areas and a number of internal improvements have already been achieved:

  • Customer profile category grouping
  • Strong brand and marketing material
  • Product line cross-promotion options
  • Service awareness of common themes & cross-overs
  • Business engagement events
  • Skills development and mentoring for areas of need
  • Customer focused process improvements

Since the development of this programme a service has achieved greater product line transparency and improved its operations resulting in positive 24 per cent increase.

Work continues within the council to further develop income generation and we aim to revisit the regulatory hub programme in the future. There is good engagement and we are keen to align timings with wider timelines, to ensure optimum effectiveness.

How is the new approach being sustained?

The main outcome of this programme was to scope income potential within the regulator service areas and to understand how best to develop its opportunity.  It has also achieved, a greater corporate understanding of the steps in which to take, focus resource and optimise current channel income in a better way and deliver a cost efficient, sustainable service in the future.

A number of successful outcomes have been achieved including areas whereby a ‘stop, start and continue’ approach was taken, resulting in growth opportunities and in some areas, appropriate exit strategies being implemented.

Our original ambition and motivation for the regulator hub programme remains however, this journey has highlighted requirements and dependencies that had not been considered at the development stage. This in itself has been valuable, as it has informed the scoping and modelling of new commercial proposals, supporting the council to identify and act on opportunities more quickly and proportionate to the risk and return potential.

The knowledge and experience of working with the Productivity Experts has helped to set a foundation in which future Enterprise strategies and opportunities can flourish more effectively and efficiently.

Lessons learned

  • The power of cross-service promotion, expanding the customer offer in a more efficient manner.  Example: promote several service product areas to the one customer increases revenue return and reduces council process.
  • The value and requirement for commercialism to be a central part of any organisation.
  • The need to understand the product lifecycle, market and customer journey and to maintain knowledge.
  • Recognise the value of full financial transparency, budgets and benefit of a cash flow process.
  • Culture, skills and capability require alignment.
  • The power of modern agile digital options.  Example: developing customer enquiry forms that improve and streamline the customer journey and reduce resource dependency.
  • The successful impact of a strong and trusted brand.
  • Investment towards sales and marketing skills.
  • Routes of communication and repercussions of negative behaviour on an organisations culture.
  • Key commercial opportunities for growth and development.

The productivity programme has helped identify a number of operational efficiencies, actively championed business improvements and enabled the council to realise its potential.   It has been reassuring and thought provoking for the future of our income generation ambitions and set a strategic vision should the council wish to develop the programme further.

Contacts

West Sussex County Council
Angela Redman, Commercial Marketing Manager: angela.redman@westsussex.gov.uk

Local Government Association
Helen Hull, Advisor: helen.hull@local.gov.uk