Open mobile menu

Building public sector capacity

Follow the questions for commissioners managing a market. Then click on a recommendation or use another checklist

Question These are questions that commissioners should ask as part of the market management process Recommendation These are recommendations for what a market manager should do to improve the performance of the market Link to another toolkit Link through to other checklists about good market management, or return to an earlier set of questions

Develop internal training programme

Development of tailored training to ensure in-house staff have the full range of skills to deliver the change in service operation required.

The effective delivery of new service demands may require new skills and behaviours not currently available in-house or within the wider market.

The skills identified as necessary to sustain a change in service provision - professional, technical, managerial - will need to be developed internally to ensure that the existing public sector provision remains as competitive as alternative options and in line with public expectations on service quality and accessibility.

Frequently, such skills are often available within other parts of an organisation and service managers should consider what internal resources can be used in the short term to support a training programme to address skills gaps over time.

There are many organisations which can assist councils in the development of staff capabilities, which is important in driving local service redesign. Staff will need to be comfortable delivering services in wholly new ways. Organisations such as the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Public Services Transformation Network should guide best practice and the development of internal training programmes.

Skills and best practice sharing with the emergency services, education bodies, local social services and the Home Office should be considered a priority.

Internal training programmes will need to focus on all touchpoints along the pathway for welfare-to-work, ensuring skills and best practice are shared with social services teams, HMRC, DWP, NHS and wider education services.

Partner with other services to deliver programme

Partnership working that generates a joint understanding of a common service problem and pools resources and knowledge to create a shared responsibility for improving outcomes.

A stand-alone service provision shoud not always be the first choice of market managers, if there are potential cost savings through service integration which can exploit opportunities for innovation not possible through separate provision.

Existing services elswhere in the public sector may have in place the ICT networks, technology and the staff through which a new service could be delivered, and can operate as a potential integration partner. Integrating these areas should be a first consideration where additional budget is not an option.

A partnership should provide structures that promote joint problem solving, management and operational delivery to generate a shared vision for the service solution. The types of partnership considered could range from the simple sharing of data and intelligence to improve a service design; the co-location of services to stimulate economies of scale; joint thinking by formerly separate teams working together; or the pooling of budgets to develop a joint venture.

Integrating local services is a focus for local authorities seeking to improve service outcomes. Choosing the right business model to integrate services is important. These include: aligned budgeting, where two or more partners aligning their activities and budgets to deliver agreed outcomes; alliance contracting, where one contract is formed between the commissioner and an alliance of parties who deliver the service with collective ownership.

Joint commissioning, joint ventures, payment by results and pooled budgets can also be considered. Alliance contracting and joint ventures require a stronger relationship between local partners; if this is insufficient, councils should consider beginning the process with a simpler arrangement such as aligned budgeting, before moving towards the stronger model.

Pooling resources within geographies will also create a less fragemented approach to reducing re-offedning. Current trends in the criminal justice space to integrate probation with local services (mental health support, social services, housing, etc.) are also growing in practice.

Pooling resources within geographies will also create a less fragemented service. Current trends in the welfare-to-work sector to join with local services (health, social services, education etc.) are also growing in practice.

Contract for additional short-term support with an external partner

Avoiding short-term gaps in capability in early development period of any new service.

Public sector in-house staff resourcing and recruitment may not be suffiiciently robust to ensure full service provision in the early months of any new service.

A short-term contract with an external provider is an option to ensure sufficient staffing capacity required to embed a service, and to give the in-house team time to build up internal resources and capabilities.

Short-term vs. long-term contracting comes down to the levels of investment required. A short-term contract that provides additional support or a quick fix to an issue such as flooding clean-up, where in-house capacity is limited, may be appropriate. However, flood risk management and services such as dredging necessitate a longer-term relationship and require a level of investment that will only be commercially attractive to suppliers within a longer-term contract, which reduces the risk of future short-term issues. Commissioners need to be mindful of these tensions when commissioning for long-term service transformation, understanding where short-term support is likely to required.

Outsourcing of employment services is one example of how external partners can provide service provision. However, there will be challenges in a short term contract if the outcomes require time to demonstrate a marked change in circumstances for end users.

Buy in training to build up necessary skills

Targeted training to address skills gaps identified aa result of service change.

Existing in-house training may often not be tooled up to manage the sort of significant internal skills change programme needed to reflect the new service being delivered.

External training support should be considered where it can be demonstrated as the most appropriate solution to prepare existing teams to deliver a new service within the timescales available. External trainers could ensure that the latest techniques in the related service area are effectively transferred.

There are already good examples of sucessful outsourcing of particular skills; for example, a number of the privately operated prisons are outsourcing specific elements of offender rehabilitation - such as preparation for employment upon release - to charity partners, recognising that this is a core skill which the main provider may not have.

The Work Programme is already an example of how external providers can bring new skills into the public sector delivery model. Although this is in the context of an overall outsourcing of the service, training and development of new techniques is at the core of this delivery.

Decommission parts or whole of the service

Adapt service provision to reflect the budget available, maintaining core functions and service quality through decommissioning other parts of the service where applicable.

With limited funding, maintenance of full service provision without significant reforms may jeopardise the quality of the whole service.

Service managers should review if ancillary services can be decommissioned and demand managed through alternative provision or service routes without significant impact on the quality of the service. Alternatively, consideration should be given to changing the specifications.

Councils need to take a strategic approach to decommissioning. In some circumstances this means the decommissioning of services that are not delivering required outcomes. Decommissioning is not simply about cutting services; rather, by successfully decommissioning previous ways of working, resources for new approaches to core customer needs and demands are freed up.

Any decommissioning must include details of alternative service provision, risk mitigation measures and comprehensive impact assessments. Decommissioning should assess the level of performance, strategic relevance and value for money in order to inform whether or not a service is fit for purpose. For example, Croydon Council has a decommissioning toolkit that guides its approach to maintaining or stopping services.

It will be difficult to decommission services without ensuring a replacement service is up and running. However, a focus on Digital enhancements, merging geographies,and moving investment in the sytem to prevention rather than on punative solutions could all create space for decommissioning existing services.

Due to the vulnerable of much of customer base and the public-facing nature of welfare services and a requirement for public confidence in services, decomissioning would require a clear pathway for users to ensure impacts from loss of service.

Redeploy staff from other parts of the organisation

Available short-term staff capacity to manage new service provision.

Introduction of new service provision requires significant additional resource in early stages to ensure success.

Internal negotiations may be required to source staff resources from other services if capacity is available, to ensure that gaps in skills and capability are covered until internal resources can address this. Other options open to address identified gaps include seeking out specialists in other organisations who could come in temporarily to seed skills and create a platform for long-term staff resource planning.

Redeployment of staff within a council can help in the short-term to manage new service requirements. However, local authorities will also need to think longer term about the sustainability of their organisation and capacity of staff to manage capacity requirements. For example, procurement teams in councils can vary in size but are often quite small; a shared service arrangement with neigbouring councils would be one way to address the lack of procurement capacity in a council through accessing other shared provision which enables an authority to get better outcomes from its commercial deals.

Consider borrowing skills from areas that provide a similar service. For instance, the MOD has an internal justice system. And the Justice Academy may also be able to provide expertise.

The fragmented geographical nature of services could mean that additional staff from different local groups could be brought in to address short term capacity. This appoach would also encourage knowledge sharing and best practice adoption.

Outsource key functions where there is a specific skills need

Ensure in-house service has the necessary skills to maintain the effective delivery of a service during a period of change.

There may be a skills gap generated by a requirement to change a service (in response, for example, to a ministerial directive) which cannot be easily resourced through existing teams or business model.

Outsourcing specific (auxillary or support) elements of a programme to an external provider should be considered where it can be demonstrated that the best outcomes cannot be achieved through existing internal training structures. This would allow the focus to be on the primary internal skills resources that are required. In any change programme within a public service, the external supplier market will be a ready resource available to commercial teams to address skills gaps.

New roles for councils in flood and water management are an example of where a lack of in-house capacity and skills can impact services. With increased flood risks in many areas, councils need to consider whether in-house teams are sufficient to manage periodic spikes in demand for flood risk management. Elements could be contracted with suppliers who can provide capabilities ranging from strategic level risk assessments to the design and delivery of flood risk management measures.

Outsourcing criminal justice activities requires the link to public safety to be maintained. Data security is another sensitve area which must be monitored, but the encouragement of data sharing should be a primary focus. Finally, consideration should be given to the potential input of partners in both the private and voluntary sector solutions in this area.

While the work programme has provided a working model for employment services provided by both the private and the voluntary sector, there are some lessons to be learned. In particular, the skills required to find someone employment that might meet a threshold requirement may be different to the skills required to sustain an individual in a new career path with growth opportunities.

Create a market

Where there are limited sources of further savings through existing in-house provision, it is prudent to consider if the market can provide a solution.

Continued cost cutting in an existing service provision model is likely to result in significant reductions in service quality and worse outcomes for the end user.

Even where public sector provision is established, it is important that commissioners still engage with suppliers and understand when potential solutions become available which may perform more effectively than the current public sector solution.

Go to the checklist for creating a new market

Early engagement with suppliers is crucial to the creation of new local government markets. Councils are in the process of fundamentally redesigning services, together with other local public sector bodies: therefore, suppliers need to be equipped with the information, and the right market incentives, to come up with approaches that offer better outcomes. This can really only come from effective and sustained communications with different groups of suppliers.

Opportunities exist for new markets, and recent probation reform work is a good example of this. However, in the market, the balance between politics and social value must be retained while encouraging innovation and change.

The Work Programme is an example of how the drivers of reform and value for money could be used to create a stronger market for the provision of employment services.

Use the market

Where there is limited capacity in the public sector, a commissioner should consider if the market can provide solutions not currently available to them.

Lack of capacity in the public sector limits to expand or transform how a service operates limits the options open to a market manager.

Where a clear lack of public sector capacity is identified, commissioners should being early engagement with as wide range of potential suppliers in order to understand the solutions available in the market which may address the short-term and long-term need for workable capacity.

Early engagement with suppliers is important in the creation of new local government markets. Councils are in the process of fundamentally redesigning services together with other local public sector bodies. Markets will need to be equipped with the knowledge and ability to drive better outcomes.

Opportunities exist for new markets, and recent probation reform work is a good example of this. However, in the market, the balance between politics and social value must be retained while encouraging innovation and change.

The Work Programme was an example of how the drivers of reform and value for money could be used to create a stronger market for the provision of employment services.