Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Camden's cuts challenge - post 7 - outcomes-based budgeting is for bad times and good

Another advantage of moving to outcomes-based budgeting is it's ability to react both to austerity and to more favourable settlements. 

Compared to salami-slicing (cutting a % from each service), an outcomes-based approach to budgeting is evidence-led, and means that resources are allocated in order to achieve agreed priorities.
A traditional salami-slicing approach to allocating savings means that all areas receive a similar proportion of cut, regardless of the consequential effect on services or on the contribution of the service to key outcomes. 

It’s a short-term approach that can lead to long-term problems. Services can become unsustainable over time as they respond to repeated ‘one off’ savings requirements rather than undergo strategic reform.  They can also become ‘top heavy’ with too many managers and senior staff, not responding to the revised needs of an organisation that has shrunk significantly over a few years.

Austerity means it’s more important than ever to target resources in the areas they are most effective, not just doing less of everything.

But conversely, an outcomes approach to budgeting links resource allocation directly to strategic objectives based on evidence of what succeeds.  This evidence base means that there is a strong correlation between the resource allocated and the expectation of what outcomes will be achieved.  

Therefore if the funding envelope changes the organisation can respond by varying the scale of investment in order to achieve more of an outcome or to achieve it quicker, or if required to scale back investment in outcomes that are of less high priority, and can do this with an understanding of what the effects will be. 

Camden's cuts challenge - post 6 - how we are talking to local people

No plan to tackle the massive cuts can be put forward without speaking to residents and local organisations.

Here's a short video explaining the challenge and what we will be doing over the next month:

September and October
During this period we will set out the scale of the challenge and start a discussion about how services might have to change, e.g. how we deliver them differently for less money and how we focus resource better.

This will involve a range of initiatives:

Public meetings - including local budget meetings/AAGs and forums for specific groups.

Service user group - we've already set up meetings with various groups to specifically explain the cuts and how they relate to them (e.g. Learning Disabilities Forum, Youth Council, Faith Forum etc).

Roadshows - these have started and will continue through to October in locations ranging from supermarkets to libraries and community centres.   Camden in Focus events run by the housing department have already started in Regents Park, Kings Cross and West End Sidings.

Written submissions - every household the chance to give their initial views and send their thoughts back by a free-post pull out in the Camden Magazine.

Online -  there are a number of ways for residents to give their views online, including an online survey tool created by local tech initiative VoxUp.

Meetings are all being advertised in a range of ways including the Camden Magazine, posters, direct emails and letters to interested groups and residents and tweets.  We'll try and reach as many people as possible but please help to spread the word.

Feedback will inform our proposals to be published in advance of the December Cabinet meetings.

November - December
We will be clearly and transparently communicating to residents what they have been telling us through September and October.  Actual proposals to balance the budget will be published in the normal way before the 17 December Cabinet meeting and public scrutiny from councillors at the Council will happen on 16 December.

January onwards
This will be when we start the process of formal consultations on specific service changes - we can't say exactly what the timetable will be because those decisions haven't yet been made.

February
Camden council will set the first of three annual budgets which will close the £70m gap by 2017.