Stoke-on-Trent Council drowning in red tape
Any of you who haven't yet got around to reading the Transformational Change paper for Stoke-on-Trent's cabinet meeting on Thursday are missing a treat. The Sentinel reports some of the highlights. Vanguard management consultants were paid £200,000 (one off) and have come up with savings of £600,000 a year by streamlining bureaucracy. So well done Vanguard I suppose. They speak truth to power. But it does seem that with decent management in place their proposals would not have been needed.
On road maintenance the report says:
The small team working on the Place intervention found multiple paperwork and computer inputting. For example, to log a defect on our highways, it included 14 pieces of paper and 16 computer inputs. Paperwork was being ferried around the City simply to issue job instructions. A service request in highways could take as long as 75 days to complete (34 on average). A vehicle access crossing could take 1,148 days (744 average).
The system was characterised by high demand and duplication (24,940 customer requests annually just for highways) 65% of highways demand was failure and 46% of environmental demand was also failure. Some jobs attended had already been completed by other staff and different sections that could have been connected were working in isolation. There was also no connection between staff who planned new capital works and those that had to maintain them afterwards.
On adult social care it says:
The intervention covered anyone who has an Occupational Therapy assessment from the Disability Resource Team (DRT) and who may be provided with advice, equipment, aids or adaptation to their home to enable them to live more independent lives. During check it was found that the people who were asking for help were being asked the same questions over and over again by different people. Some customers could be on the phone to Stoke-on-Call for over an hour and then passed to another team to answer the same questions. In short, there was a lot of duplicate questions being asked.
Initial findings suggested that it can take up to 385 days to fit a stair lift. An average piece of equipment costs around £65 but costs the Council £223 to process. The assessment designed to allow only the most in need into the system does not put people off. Some will re-contact us up to nine times in the three month period after rejection. In the end, we give services to 29% of those we have rejected previously.
On rent arrears it says:
In the current arrears recovery system tenants are not contacted until at least 3 weeks arrears are accrued.
On benefit applications it says:
It was taking up to 93 days to receive a benefit from claim date and these customers were left not knowing if their benefits would be paid and they repeatedly hit the system with further failure demand. It also caused debt recovery actions in other sections. Customers had to contact us up to 8 times for each claim and we were contacting them on average 3 times. To complete an assessment for housing benefit, it took an experienced assessor 45 minutes but the 93 days were filled with batching claims, scanning them, writing out for proofs and customers only being able to speak to customer service advisors who were very competent but not authorised to make decisions.
What a complete shambles. So many examples of inefficiency not only wasting money has also resulting in a worse service. The report does says that many of these problems have now been dealt with by changing the procedures.