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Transformation Lessons Learned

28 January 2020 : Council news

An independent audit of the Council’s transformation programme has criticised the process for its cost, impact on service delivery and knowledge loss.

The audit was commissioned by the Leader of SWT, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, after the scale of the problem was realised following the local election in May 2019.

The report by the South West Audit Partnership provides a detailed overview of the transformation and identifies nine areas where lessons can be learned including the redundancy process, stakeholder engagement and risk management.

It concludes that: “With a Transformation Programme as ambitious and complex as this, it is imperative that it is adequately planned and resourced, especially where it is being driven by a date for completion.

The decision to allow voluntary redundancy for all staff ultimately undermined the Transformation Programme as it gave the Authority little control over resource retention and more importantly cost control over redundancies.”

Both Taunton Deane Borough Council (TDBC) and West Somerset Council (WSC) approved the Business Case in July 2016 to have a single council with a Transformation Programme.

The Programme focused on whole organisational change with a completely new operating model where the way services are delivered would be changed through greater customer self-serve and increased efficiencies through new technology and processes.

However, the expected benefits from the Transformation Programme have not been realised and the programme has gone significantly over budget. Redundancy costs exceeded original expectations and are running at approximately £6.35 million compared to the original estimate of £3.7 million.

Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, said: “The SWAP audit report paints a very stark picture of the unreasonably ambitious and intrinsically risky programme the former councils embarked on.

It has been important for us to understand how this process was implemented and why it went wrong so that we can focus our efforts as a new Council to deliver the services residents need.

We need to draw a clear line between what happened at TDBC and WSC, and what is happening now at SWT. It's not about the past, it's about learning lessons and looking forward.”

The SWAP report will be discussed at a joint meeting of the Scrutiny and Audit, Governance and Standards Committees on 12 February 2020, before going to the Executive and Full Council meetings in March.