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Brentwood Borough Council

FOI 5234

Shared Services Financial Management Project

Request

I am writing to make an open government request for all information to which I am entitled under the Freedom of Information Act (2000).

I require a breakdown of expenditure undertaken by Brentwood Borough Council (and by others on behalf of Brentwood Borough Council) relating to the investigation and implementation of a
shared service financial management service.

I would be grateful if you could provide the following details -

* Commercial consultancy services (actual expenditure, start / end date, provider(s)),
* Partner / other third-party services (actual expenditure, start /
end date, provider(s)),
* Internally provided resources (actual expenditure, start / end period),
* Purchase of supporting hardware and/or software, licences (actual expenditure, details),
* Any other identifiable expenditure associated with the investigation / implementation of the project
* The progress made in implementing the shared services financial management service,
* The current status of the project.

I am encouraged by the Council's commitment to the Government's Local Transparency Agenda in providing information to citizens.

However should any of the services included in delivering this project allow identification of a specific, named individual, I will accept an appropriate company / job identifier in its place.

The controls which I have specified WILL allow disclosure of the requested data without enabling a refusal on your part on grounds of infringing personal data (specifically reference to section
40(2) of the FOIA).

Guidance is provided on this issue (if required) within Information Commissioner Office notice dated 23rd February 2009.

I understand that under the act, I should be entitled to a response within 20 working days. I would be grateful if you could confirm by mail that you have received this request. I look forward to
hearing from you in the near future.

Response

Thank you for your request for information below.

As part of a ‘Working Together Better in Essex’ agenda, a Memorandum of Understanding between Brentwood Borough Council (BBC), Essex County Council (ECC) and Braintree District Council (BDC) was formed and Brentwood Borough Council commenced work with Essex County Council to explore the options for developing a Finance Shared Service (FSS). Implementation processes for the FSS commenced subsequent to approval of the business case, with programme management provided by ECC.

By the start of April 2012 the earliest go-live date for the FSS was identified as being August 2012. In addition to the delayed implementation date, some concerns remained regarding the extent to which the FSS “offering” from ECC could fully meet the existing and future requirements of BBC. The risk of ECC providing a finance function for areas of work outside of their current finance function; Planning, Revenues and Benefits were identified and were being managed as part of the project. However, in planning future requirements of any system to adapt to future changes in legislation, the risk associated with compatibility became greater. In addition to this, the cost of implementing changes to ECC’s IT systems to accommodate some of the specific needs of BBC were increasing.

A process was therefore commenced in May 2012 in order to validate the fit of the developing FSS with the requirements of BBC. A Requirements Definition Document (RDD) was developed by BBC and responded to by ECC in June 2012. The resulting response document identified some key gaps in the proposed service provision plus the costs and risks associated with completing the implementation. Given the increased cost both from closing the service gap, the prolongation of the implementation period and the on-going uncertainty for staff; jointly ECC and BBC agreed to explore a “Plan B” and identify associated costs and risks to consider alongside the FSS option.

Following this decision, the original option appraisal process was revisited so as to identify a “Plan B”. This process identified that an “in house” solution of a re-structured, permanent finance team underpinned by modern, replacement financial systems and processes would be the preferred option.

Based on the above, ECC and BBC jointly agreed to cease work on the FSS Project and instead pursue the above solution.

In view of the background information above, I can respond to your specific points raised:

1) Commercial Consultancy Services – in April 2011 Deloittes was commissioned by ECC to develop a business case for the FSS. This work was contracted and financed by ECC.
2) Partner/Other Third Party Services – there are no direct costs payable by BBC in respect of this.
3) Internally Provided Resources – BBC employed a Project Manager for the period 11/04/2012 to 18/06/2012 at a cost of £15,675 excluding VAT.
4) Purchase of Supporting Hardware and/or Software – there are no direct costs payable by BBC in respect of this.
5) Any Other Identifiable Expenditure – there are no further direct costs payable by BBC in respect of this.
6) Progress Made/Current Status – this is covered in the opening introduction.

In summary, the majority of costs relating to the exploration of a Shared Service function were both incurred and managed by Essex County Council. At this time, Brentwood Borough Council is in negotiation over the proportion of these costs which will be recharged. As such, I am unable to provide you with any further details at this time.