How is your council doing? Best value reports

The Audit Commission conducts a variety of inspections across the public sector. Their reports are clear, concise and easy-to-read.

Here is an example of a best value report of an inspection by the Audit Commission of Birmingham City Council’s e-government services. E-government is an interesting sector to look at because it is so interconnected with freedom of information and shows how well an authority is dealing with the public. In the case of Birmingham, the report shows that:

  • the creation of Contact Birmingham has improved telephone call answer rates from an average of 35 per cent to 65 per cent;
  • the benefits service has significantly improved as a result of new ICT systems;
  • 100 per cent of the council¬ís interactions with the public, where practicable, can be undertaken electronically; and
  • the council¬ís website was ranked by SOCITM (Society of Information Technology Managers) amongst the top 20 best developed local authority websites in Britain.

However:

  • systems to support staff/customers in neighbourhood offices are poor and prone to some processes causing equipment to crash regularly;
  • Contact Birmingham is not being maximised to improve customer service and resolve customer queries with call answer rates being poor in some areas of its operations. For example, the answer rate for housing benefit calls is 47 per cent;
  • there is no effective customer tracking in place and therefore it is not possible to determine progress of a query or ensure that it is being actioned;
  • the wide area network (WAN) does not currently provide adequate access to local services and overall network resilience requires improvement;
  • there is a multiplicity of customer relationship management systems (CRMs) resulting in a fragmented approach to customer information; and
    English is the only language on the main website.

Conduct your own search of local government, health, criminal justice or housing at the Audit Commission’s home page.

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