Features: May 27th, 2009

Sweating the people assets is a well tried way of increasing efficiency and the public sector has many examples of how this can be done. The ‘Total Place’ proposals, part of the Treasury’s Operational Efficiency Programme, sets out a blueprint for working smarter and making efficiency savings. The ‘Total Place’ strand of the Operational Efficiency Programme brings together elements of central government and local agencies within a place. Publicnet provides an overview of the Programme.

Savings from the Operational Efficiency Programme are estimated at £15b with a further potential saving of £20 from property sales in the next ten years. The other main strands of the Programme are Shared Services,
Collaborative Procurement, and Property Asset Management.

Total spending on public services has seen unprecedented sustained growth over the past decade, with an increase of 42 per cent in real terms since 1997. Spending on the National Health Service doubled in real terms and local government has received real increases in government grants of 39 per cent between 1997 and 2007. Demands on the public purse will continue to rise, with estimates such as the cost of chronic disease predicted to increase by 30 per cent to a minimum of £15.6 billion by 2025, unless better ways of preventing coronary heart disease, strokes and diabetes are developed.

The challenge of increasing demands on services combined with the budget deficit, make it imperative to find radical new solutions which redesign or reshape public services. The Total Place strand of the Operational Efficiency Programme seeks to harness the creativity and liberate the potential of frontline staff and put them at the heart of the change process. The project provides local government with the opportunity to shape and develop the landscape going forward and working creatively, by delivering better experiences for the people that live there.

The aim of Total Place is to create the environment where collaboration and innovation on the frontline can flourish. This will be done by putting the spotlight on successful initiatives and reforms that can be replicated elsewhere and by eliminating barriers to change through reduction of the bureaucratic burdens on the frontline and stopping programmes that do not add value, to create space for those that do.

The concept of Total Place is based on a number of developments including devolution of power to communities, empowerment of local staff, the Treasury’s Excellence and Fairness agenda, Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s Independent Review of Policing and The NHS National Innovation Centre’s initiative ‘Wouldn’t It Be Good If…?. Total Place has been piloted in Cumbria with a two-phase initiative that set out to bring together leaders from all public sector bodies in Cumbria to gain a shared understanding of the needs of the area, the services provided and the total levels of public spending. It is also searching for ways to overcome cultural and organisational barriers. A similar pilot is running in Birmingham.

The Total Place’project will now be taken forward in 13 areas to find out how local public agencies can better work together to deliver front-line services more efficiently with a radical reshaping that will result in an improved quality of life for their communities.