Work to improve how local authorities can learn from others, reduce costs and improve services has today (28 November) been welcomed by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee in a report issued as part of its inquiry into public services reform.
In advance of the publication of the first set of benchmarking figures in January 2013, the committee examined the possible benefits it can bring to local authorities and the services they deliver. These figures are based on performance and cost data collected from local authorities to allow them to compare against others, learn from the best and drive forward improvement.
Whilst welcoming the improvements which benchmarking could bring, the report makes it clear that in order that for these improvements to take place, there has to be commitment from those leading Scotland’s local authorities to embrace benchmarking as a positive tool for progress.
Committee Convener, Kevin Stewart MSP said:
“It is clear to us that benchmarking has the potential to improve how local authorities deliver their services. However, this change must come from the top and all local authorities must fully understand the benefits that benchmarking can bring to the people they serve.
“Benchmarking provides an opportunity to not only do things better but to do better things. Scotland’s local authorities must seize this opportunity to improve the services they provide.
“Throughout our inquiry, we have seen the positive changes which are taking place across Scotland’s public sector landscape. As we move onto our third strand – shared services – we will be examining the real difference changes such as benchmarking can have in practice.”
The report makes clear that the committee will monitor the progress of the use of benchmarking, including taking evidence at least annually from local authorities in relation to their commitment to benchmarking and use of benchmarking as an improvement tool.
Part of its 3 strand inquiry into public service reform, this is the second strand focussed on benchmarking and the work being done by the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) and the Improvement Service on the development of benchmarking and how this was being used in local authorities.
Benchmarking is the process of comparing with other similar organisations the services provided, the component costs involved and the performance levels achieved. The purpose of the comparison is to enable organisations to identify where and how improvements can be made.
The committee began its inquiry into public services reform in January 2012. It agreed the inquiry would be split into three stands in order that the committee could be responsive to what it heard and discovered as it progressed.
The agreed strands were as follows:
- Strand 1: partnerships and outcomes
- Strand 2: benchmarking and performance measurement
- Strand 3: developing new ways of delivering services