In-house system produces audit trails and financial analysis
South Gloucestershire Council has developed a software tool to track its progress in meeting efficiency targets and the government's modernisation agenda.
Mike Hayesman, head of the council's Revenues and Benefits division, said the Benefitmark package has already led to efficiency gains. Now the council and its partner Barony Consulting hope to sell it to other authorities.
Benefitmark is designed to help councils produce a clear audit trail for efficiency savings, and meet the requirements of the 2004 Gershon Report.
It records the volume of business carried out by a department, such as the number of benefits claims processed. Then, using budgetary information supplied by the department, it calculates efficiency savings. Benefitmark provides suggestions for best practice to show the council where it is doing well and where there is room for improvement. It also allows for benchmarking with other authorities that feed their data into the system.
Hayesman said, "It is very much a management tool to measure in a quantitative way how a service is performing in efficiency terms to enable informed decision making in real time."
Benefitmark was developed as the council worked to improve its benefit service's Comprehensive Performance Assessment rating.
"Rather than arbitrarily look at bottom line figures and say we are more or less efficient we wanted a tool that would allow us to measure this in proper accounting terms and enable comparison over time and between authorities," said Hayesman.
"Benefits will come from being able to manage the service better so we can see where we are improving or deteriorating rather than waiting for performance and budgetary analysis.
"This often appears at financial year ends, or months in arrears when it is too late. The software can also give you best practice business process maps and allow you to intervene to improve the performance of a given area."
Benefitmark runs on a PC or server, using Microsoft Office Excel files for the quantitative and volume measurements, and in particular for loading budgets, and for the activity-based costing side. It also offers access to HTML web pages presenting spreadsheets on best practice for revenues and benefits.
Managers and accountants can access the software through their PC and input information on their authority's performance, business volumes and budgetary costs.
The next stage for South Gloucestershire Council and Barony Consulting is to develop a tool to carry out the same modelling and analysis but based on council tax administration.