As part of the research for our Future Service Partnerships report, we undertook a number of interviews with local government chief executives, leaders and senior managers. The conversations highlighted a wide range of innovative practice in terms of partnerships and investment in the community sector. Some of the broad principles of private sector partnership identified in the interviews are illustrated by the case studies below.
Establishing cross-sector partnerships and understanding what each partner is bringing to the arrangement
Isle of Wight Council has established a partnership with Southern Vectis, the main commercial bus company on the Island to develop community routes. The council used its own in-house teams to identify potential volunteer drivers. The bus company trained them as drivers, purchased their license and insurance and established the new bus routes. The Island now has 12 community bus routes and the bus company has won a national award for their community engagement work. The routes have been very popular and several elected members have recently opted to become trained drivers as a way of engaging more effectively with their communities.
Using the capacity of large private providers to invest in the community
All partners involved in the Barnsley Building Schools for the Future project are members of the Local Education Partnership and have input into the Local Education Value Added Plan. The plan outlines each partner’s commitment to the provision of learning, employment and up skilling opportunities, which would benefit the children, young people and the Barnsley community. John Laing is both an investment and a service delivery partner in the scheme, and plays an active role in the delivery of the Local Education Partnership Value Added Plan. This maps how each partner will support the schools over the next 25 years in the delivery of extracurricular activities that range from the delivery of workshops, enterprise events, teacher training days and the setting up of youth councils. Their role includes the following.
- Holding a seat on the Barnsley Challenge Board, where support and resources are committed to raise attainment, secure economic regeneration and increase employability.
- Contributing management resources and funding support to the Barnsley Council’s ‘I Know I Can’ initiative, which aims to raise the aspirations of children and young people in Barnsley.
- Having a commitment to deliver work related learning and training plans for all employees, providing an opportunity for staff transferring from the public to the private sector to enhance their development skills and progress through the company. Furthermore succession plans have been put in place, providing opportunities for further development and promotion.
- Working closely in partnership and collaboration with local service providers, such as Barnsley College, regarding apprenticeships and training. John Laing have two apprentices who are acting as ‘apprentice ambassadors’ to champion the value of apprenticeships.
Another example of this approach can be seen in Birmingham Council’s relationship with Capita, which includes a corporate social responsibility programme as part of a back office contract. Five% of all Capita’s profits are put aside for community development as a result of their agreement. Capita makes an annual report on their community work arranged as part of this programme, which has included donating their old computers to local community groups, allowing their staff 20 hours each year for volunteering in the local area, running a school citizenship programme and providing mentoring workshops for young people.
Using a partnership approach to engineer additional value from contracts
Trafford Council entered into an initial seven year contract with Veolia Environmental Services in 2004. Post-contract the council has used a ‘value engineering’ approach to work with the contractor on a partnership basis and make changes to the service. In 2008/9 they switched from a box/bag system for collecting recyclable material to recyclable material being collected in bins and the introduction of a smaller bin for non-recyclable material. Joint working increased recycling rates from 25% to 45% and delivered savings of over £1m per year on disposal costs. As a result the contract was extended for a another three years to 2014. The initial review of the contract opened up opportunities for other service improvement discussions, which have led to savings of a further £200,000 a year. The contractor has now begun to support various council initiatives such as employee awards and charity events, including volunteering from Veolia staff on environmental improvement projects within the borough.
In November 2011, Peterborough City Council formed a strategic partnership with Serco to improve services to residents and deliver at least £20m savings over the next 10 years. The Council’s relationship with Serco goes back several years. Initially they were engaged to deliver back office functions for council services. However, by developing a positive relationship with the provider, the local authority has now negotiated with them to make a new form of investment in the local area. In April 2012, Serco confirmed it has signed a new five year £17m contract with Ideal Shopping to provide customer contact services for its Ideal World, Create & Craft, Lead the Good Life and Pets & Wildlife brands. The service will be run from the UK, with contact centre operations both in Peterborough and in India. The contract will employ 160 people with all existing members of staff in Peterborough transferring to Serco, with their terms and conditions protected. As well as protecting the existing jobs, current projections indicate that a further 40 new jobs will be brought into the city within the first 12 months of the new contract. Serco will deliver all aspects of customer contact. As well as web transactions and purchases, innovative service solutions such as web chat and online advisers are also expected to feature within the service and frontline staff will benefit from dedicated training programmes to maximise sales effectiveness.
Engaging with private partners’ charitable arms
Many large private providers have their own independent charitable trusts which fund community initiatives. One example of a successful partnership with such a body is the relationship between the John Laing Charitable Trust, the Reading Agency and V- a youth volunteering charity. This partnership was formed in 2009 to deliver a three year volunteering programme in support of the Summer Reading Scheme in libraries. At the time, John Laing Integrated Services were managing the London Borough of Hounslow’s library service and Hounslow was selected as one of the 20 pilot places for the programme. Part of the project involved young Media Promoter volunteering posts being established to raise the profile of the Summer Reading Scheme. With the support of the charitable Trust, John Laing Integrated Services worked with an emerging social enterprise in Hounslow to run a workshop and media programme with ten young people. As part of this activity they reviewed events taking place within Hounslow libraries, interviewed local authors, developed a Twitter account, produced a magazine and ran a successful finale event.