In 2021 and 2022 C.Co undertook a major piece of work with Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester Councils to review their ICT shared service, which had been in place since the Councils’ inception in 2009. The key intentions were to consider the current delivery model for ICT and, in the context of all Cheshire East and Cheshire West shared services, understand if the model provided strategic alignment and consider opportunities for improvements in efficiency and effectiveness. The agreed approach was to review the current service offer, including performance and costs and to consider at a high level what the most appropriate delivery model should be for the future, by understanding the strategy and policy needs of the two Councils, as well as deliverability and cost of change.
The approach taken was to first ensure there was clarity on what the current service consists of, how much was currently shared and how it was delivered, and to establish a financial baseline position that gave clarity and transparency of costs of ICT provision and to provide benchmark data on other broadly comparable councils to demonstrate how the service could be viewed in terms of value.
It was critical for the C.Co team to establish the best possible working relationships with stakeholders from across the two Councils, each of whom had different priorities and ambitions for the future service, all of which had to be taken account of and built into future considerations.
To establish financial transparency was one of the key pillars of the work, to ensure that we were able to establish a ‘single version of the truth’ for the cost of operation of the service that was accepted by all parties. Significant work was undertaken in partnership with finance staff to provide clarity of the financial position for the current service. This was a complex picture that historically made articulating an accurate baseline position challenging and clearly did not help in supporting effective, transparent, and trusted decision-making for either Council. Benchmarking with other local authorities was also undertaken to provide a comparison of costs, services, and performance.
With a clear understanding of priorities and finances it was then possible to view the direction of travel for the ICT Shared Service and to develop a longlist of future options for review by senior stakeholders to determine a viable shortlist of options for the future delivery of the service that best met the Councils’ intentions. This shortlist was then assessed and measured against the criteria, principles and weightings as agreed, from which a recommended future hybrid delivery model was developed.
With this phase of the work completed, C.Co were asked to undertake a further analysis to provide ‘due diligence’ before an implementation decision could be made to provide a period of detailed understanding and assurance on the recommended hybrid delivery model, with a focus on understanding the technical feasibility, the resource implications and opportunities.
This work tested and confirmed that the technical conclusions reached in the first phase review were correct, were affordable and were within accepted risk thresholds. The work also provided additional considerations around the capability to deliver the hybrid model.
Throughout this commission it was essential to understand history, culture and relationships between the two Councils, as well as the shared service, and to ensure that all parties were respected and treated fairly and equitably. The C.Co team were valued by senior leaders as ‘honest brokers’ who were able to deliver what were sometimes difficult messages in an evidence-based and unbiased way to ensure that the right outcome was reached.