We believe that better outcomes in public services should cost local authorities less. To help turn that ambition into reality we have developed the IMPOWER INDEX, which helps local authorities understand their performance in a new way. Traditional tools don’t work very well when applied to complex public sector systems – so we decided to build our own, using publicly available data and applying more than 17 years of consultancy experience.
Creating value in the public sector lies at the heart of our thinking. In our view, the discourse on spending public money has become too reductive. The assumption behind most criticism of local government is that money must, almost by definition, be being wasted. And this is at a time when public spending has been cut by 40% over just a few years.
People believe that money is wasted because nobody talks about value. Even in relation to the NHS – where most people want more money to be spent – the discourse is not about value. ‘Better outcomes cost you less’ is about creating value – and by extension, about improving lives and improving public sector productivity.
The IMPOWER INDEX looks at productivity through six lenses. Each lens has between six and ten outcome measures, which were selected using the following criteria:
- Focus on value created: there must be evidence that better outcomes are achieved for less money (e.g. safely preventing family breakdown; reducing residual household waste)
- Easily graded: it must be clear whether the measure is objectively ‘good’ or ‘bad’ on a scale (e.g. the number of registered children in need is not a clear measure of good or bad performance)
- Not influenced by traditional measures: whether or not a measure exists in an existing or conventional performance measurement list (e.g. a measure is not automatically included on the INDEX even if it is a key OFSTED or ASCOF measure).
The INDEX defines productivity as outcome value per pound spent. Each council gets a score for this – for each lens – and is ranked accordingly. Here, for the first time, is IMPOWER’s top 10 list of the most productive councils in the country – congratulations to all of them:
We have now shown individual INDEX performance to the leadership teams of over 35 individual councils. Each council has benefitted from it in different ways, but the common insights from the discussions include:
- The INDEX, like all data-driven performance measures, cannot provide answers; but it does pose new questions that can prove to be transformative.
- The INDEX often challenges an existing service narrative. Leaders work hard to explain the performance of their services to colleagues; if our measures differ from theirs, this creates an invaluable discussion.
- The councils that are best placed to engage with this discussion have an open culture amongst the leadership team.
The IMPOWER INDEX is a work in progress, but is currently comprised of:
- The summary INDEX (for looking at overall local authority performance)
- Adult social care module
- Children’s services module
- DTOC module (for looking at the interface between health and social care)
- Valuing Care module (for looking at children’s placements budgets)