Book News: June 1st, 1998

The Audit commission have reviewed over 400 audits of local authorities which looked at people pay and performance. They found that although Councils face increasing demand for services and resources remain tight, between 1993 and 1995 the total non-manual paybill has continued to rise.On the demand side there are increasing numbers of elderly people and a rising school population putting particular demands on services. There is more competition and local government reorganisation poses additional management challenges.

In order to cope with additional community care responsibilities and changes in schools, more school based non teaching staff and social services staff have been required. Overall numbers have increased by 5,000 full time equivalents per year. Other findings were:

  • the percentage of staff graded at Senior Officer or above has risen from 27 to 31 per cent
  • there is wide variation both within and between authorities over pay, performance management, organisational effectiveness and communications.

Many councils are changing fast, using organisational review and performance management techniques to support the changes. There is, however, scope for authorities to make further improvements. The review recommends:

  • all authorities should develop a framework of business planning and performance review, involving everyone from front-line staff to members
  • authorities should consider the use of organisational review and benchmarking to help target areas for improvement
  • existing pay systems should be kept under review to identify and tackle weaknesses
  • the right mix of staff should be employed for the services required

Performance management is not a ‘quick fix’ which can overcome all the problems of reduced resources. However, by focusing on key aims and improving staff productivity, authorities can manage and protect services more effectively.

The Melody Lingers On… Review of the Audits of People, Pay and Performance ISBN 1 86240 010 5.  £10.00

Copies of the national report are available from:

Audit Commission Publications

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