Thursday, November 29, 2007

The joy of mass e-mail

Bit of a serious stooshie brewing at the Council this afternoon ... all down, it appears, to some injudicious use of mass e-mail :-(

Just after 4pm, everyone at the Local Authority (yes, everyone on e-mail ... that's thousands and thousands and thousands of individuals) received an e-mail 'Briefing' from the Council's Chief Executive.

I'm just going to re-produce it in full below (at the bottom of this post) - I don't usually do that, but given the BBC story (here) that originally appeared less than 2-hours after the e-mail was sent, I hardly think its contents are a state secret?

It all centres around the "Pathfinder Project", as it's known within the Council.

In itself, this is not anything new - indeed, there was a report about it at the October 2007 Full Council meeting, see here, which stemmed from a motion that one of my colleagues had moved at the September 2007 Full Council meeting as follows:

10.3 By Councillor Munro - KPMG Pathfinder Project

“Council calls for a report to the next Full Council on the work by KPMG on the Pathfinder Project, containing:
1 ) the full original report and its recommendations;
2) details of how these recommendations have been implemented; and
3) whether the potential for savings identified in the report can help improve the Council’s financial position.”

... and, as you'll see from the October report which resulted, the whole topic has it's origins in mid-2006 - see paras. 2.1 and 2.2 therein.

So why, oh why, send round an e-mail - of all things! - stating that nearly 1,000 jobs 'could' be affected? ... the October report made it clear (see para. 3.1 therein) that further work is ongoing and Trade Union consultation would take place??

Just an accident of judgement (??) or is there something more 'immediate' to all of this than we've been led to believe to date?


From: Communications
Sent: Thu 11/29/2007 4:07 PM
To: Everyone
Subject: Chief Executive's Briefing - Shared Services

The Council has made progress in improving performance in recent years but we recognise that there is more that we need to do to improve services and maintain value for money for the people of Edinburgh. Therefore the Council welcomed the opportunity, funded by the Scottish Government, to lead a Shared Services Pathfinder project, in partnership with Fife and Scottish Borders Councils and to be at the forefront of moves to create a more efficient public sector in Scotland.

This project aims to identify opportunities for efficiency savings and service improvements through the simplification, standardisation and sharing of council processes and services. It builds on a range of improvement activity that has already been undertaken by the Council, including restructuring around customer focussed service groupings, rationalising our office buildings and investing in modern technology.

The first phase of the project resulted in the development of an outline business case which highlighted nine areas where simplification, standardisation or sharing could potentially improve services and reduce costs. However, it is still at a preliminary stage with more detailed work required before any decisions on changes to services can be taken by the Council. Also while a potential net saving over three years of up to £30 million was estimated, some service areas would require substantial investment before any benefits could be realised and it has currently not been identified how this investment would be funded.

The service areas considered during phase 1 of the project were:
1. Initial customer contact
2. Customer assessment and decision making processes
3. Council tax revenues
4. Home based services
5. Procurement
6. Strategic functions
7. Administration and clerical support
8. Pensions administration and investments
9. Trading standards and environmental health

The business case also points to a potential reduction of over 800 employees across all departments. Almost half of these posts relate to agency staff on temporary contracts and in fact some of these staff reductions have been put into effect already with a dramatic reduction in the number of agency staff working across the Council as a result of the tight financial constraints. The aim will be to achieve any staff reductions through natural wastage and redeployment wherever possible.

The Council has recently received further funding from the Scottish Government to undertake a second phase of work which will bring forward detailed proposals and accurate cost and benefit calculations that will enable informed decisions to be taken on the way forward for the Council. This work should be complete by spring 2008 and we will inform you of the details in the proposals at that time.

Tom Aitchison Chief Executive

Managers should ensure this message is cascaded to staff who do not have access to e-mail.


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