Features: January 20th, 2010

By Robert Hardy

The Kent Total Place (TP) pilot is focused on improving services to the customer, reducing duplication and improving efficiency across the public sector. Although Kent partners have welcomed the focus that the pilot timescale brings, the key actions were already underway before TP was announced and will persist for at least 3 to 5 years.

Counting the totality of public expenditure is a core activity for the all the pilots. This is not new in Kent; we’ve been doing this for a number of years. The TP pilot gives us the opportunity to further refine and develop this work, but counting by itself does not lead to action. The significant opportunity arising from the TP pilot is to take the same multi-agency approach to our understanding residents and customers and to add significant impetus to changing organisational culture across the public sector. Counting, customer insight and organisational culture are the common themes that run through all the detailed work.

The Kent Total Place pilot project has three workstreams: gateway, single asset management and the Margate task force.

Gateway multi-channel
This workstream aims to transform public access. It began as far back as 2003, with the pilot Ashford Gateway opening in October 2005. It already enjoys extensive support and collaboration from many existing local partners. It has a huge potential to radically improve the customer experience of accessing public services, simplify processes within and between organisations, increase the efficiency of transactional services and reduce costs overall. Central government services are yet to fully embrace this model of working and that’s at the core of what we hope the TP pilot will change.

Single Asset Management
This strategy is focused on buildings. It is based on a history of collaboration between local partners in Kent, but seeks to broaden and deepen the work. The proposition is intended to help all partners migrate from the asset base we currently have to the base required for transformed public service delivery. This partly flows from the ‘front office shared service’ that the Gateway offers, but also questions the scale and nature of future back office accommodation needs as well as seeking to make a reality of truly integrated service facilities between local authorities and the NHS for example.

Margate Task Force
This workstream is building on the significant momentum of the Margate Renewal Partnership and of a range of public sector and community actions in the two wards of Margate Central and Cliftonville West. These two wards have been beset by multiple disadvantages over many years. Efforts at physical regeneration have been ongoing, but cumulative public policy decisions at national and local level have tended work against this. Poorly-supported, transient and vulnerable individuals have continued to be placed into an area already under considerable stress. The Task Force is set up to develop new ways of working, connecting strategic decision-makers into action at a very local level.

The future is collaboration
Kent has a great track-record in partnership working to enable counting, customer insight and organisational culture to be the cornerstones of change in each of the workstreams. If Total Place and the legacy that emerges from it is to be truly transformational for residents and taxpayers, it needs partners from central government, NDPBs and regional agencies to be fully on board for an exciting journey into the future of public services.

Examples of how the reshaped services in Kent have responded to the needs of customers and the responses of the customers can be found at the following links.
A Housing Plus experience
Help in bereavement
Gateway quotes

Robert Hardy is director of improvement and engagement at Kent County Council.