24 March 2011

A council team which is a key element of a groundbreaking new way of sharing local government services has scooped the top finance award in recognition of its innovation.

Northamptonshire County Council’s finance team picked up the Team of the Year accolade at a national local government awards ceremony, the LGC Awards, last night (Wed 23 Mar).

Award judges had heard how the team’s achievements include its involvement in a shared services operation with Cambridgeshire County Council to provide transactional, professional and strategic support to both authorities and other public sector bodies.

Leader of Northamptonshire County Council Jim Harker said: “The LGC Finance Team of the Year Award is a fantastic accolade and thoroughly deserved by an excellent team. In what has been a difficult financial year for all local authorities, it is very reassuring for the people of Northamptonshire to know that we have such a highly thought of finance team. This is the highest national recognition we could receive and proof that tax payers money is being exceptionally well managed by a highly competent team.”

Paul Blantern, chief executive of the county council and managing director of LGSS, said: “I’m delighted the team has received the recognition of the local government sector for their innovative and highly competent work. We are in a period of enormous financial challenge and this team has helped us manage the funding available to us in ways that deliver best value and investment.

“Going forward, we hope to be able to share the award-winning expertise of our finance team, and that of the other support services that make up LGSS, throughout the public sector.”

The team was also recognised for its treasury management with judges hearing how the council pension scheme’s costs per member stands at £19.91, compared with an average of £21.77 while the treasury management strategy has seen the council paying lower than average interest while receiving a higher than average interest rate. Treasury benchmarking club data shows that the council is paying interest at an average of 4.09 per cent, compared with a club average of 5.30 per cent, and receiving interest at a rate of 5.50 per cent, compared with an average of 5.22 per cent.

In a separate category, the council was highly commended in the Workforce category for the Northamptonshire teacher recruitment and retention strategy. The strategy was created in 2009 to tackle problems that included insufficient newly-qualified secondary teachers and a lack of succession planning for a large number of headteachers approaching retirement. The strategy has seen the appointment of a recruitment, retention and trainee teacher adviser, as well as conducting a detailed needs assessment.

At the end of the initiative’s first year, there were 722 expressions of interest from newly qualified teachers, while 21 governors received recruitment training and 16 headteachers took part in the council induction programme.

Councillor Andrew Grant, cabinet member for children and young people said: “We adopted a strategy that would see the best calibre of teacher attracted to Northamptonshire because we want every child in the county to have the best possible education. It’s wonderful to see that our approach has been hailed nationally as an example of good practice.”

The awards required evidence of a proactive approach in driving best practice forward as well as demonstrating ways in which the team has achieved excellence and greater efficiency over the past year.

Additional information:

Local Government Shared Services (LGSS) is the shared service venture set up by Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire county councils to provide business support services. Through LGSS, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire County Councils share services including among others: finance, human resources, procurement, and legal services. By sharing professional and transactional services in this way, LGSS will result in a saving in excess of £25m over the next ten years.