AA Awards 2008: Finance Team – Public Sector

The finance department at Essex County Council has played a vital role in
improving care for vulnerable children in the county.

Finance staff worked closely with Children’s Services to help find efficiency
savings that could be redirected into a new £19m investment programme.

They analysed children’s projects to see if they were proving value for money
and helped compile ‘performance indicators’ to judge the performance of

One of the main aims of the project was to reduce the number of children who
are looked after by the council, which is among the highest in the country.

The finance department identified areas where money could be saved, such as
by reviewing major contracts, with savings redirected to those services most in

Finance staff held team-building sessions with staff in other departments to
clarify their objectives and the values that were most important to them. These
values, such as ‘responsiveness’ and ‘inspiration’ were included in the
contracts of staff, along with balanced scorecards to help track performance.

The procurement review, which included contracts ranging from fostering and
school transport, was done alongside a review of school funding. Funding was
directed to children in certain school catchment areas.

The finance department’s review has already begun to pay off. The number of
children referred to social services more than once has fallen after five annual

Investment in frontline staff has helped the council deal more promptly with
referrals, assessments and reviews of children in care.

Five steps to success

  • Created a new integrated finance team
  • Team building exercises to clarify objectives for all strategic services
  • Analyse children’s needs and outcomes, as well as the performance of the

Develop a new strategy to help improve Council performance

  • Identify £19m investment to be targeted at services in urgent need
  • Identify efficiency savings

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