A framework and programme of support to help Councils achieve financial resilience and deliver their purpose.

Developed with and for the sector. 

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Driven by experience.

Councils are at the sharp end of acute modern challenges: fiscal constraint, rising demand, and falling trust in public institutions. They are also vital to shaping our future: delivering net zero, overcoming inequality and intergenerational poverty, growing the economy, building homes. There's slim prospect of sustained, additional central funding. Section 114 notices in this context are at best a negotiation to borrow and raise tax. Emerging regulation insists Councils, CEOs and Finance Directors show they have assured, governed plans to balance the books and deliver. Yet their strategy, transformation and delivery functions are pared to the bone, and thus too, their capacity and capability to respond. Many senior leaders know what needs to be done but lack bandwidth or support to develop proposals and delivery arrangements at pace. For these reasons we have developed SUSTAIN: co-produced savings and transformation programmes that are sustainable and realistic, to manage and mitigate the risk of financial failure and enable recovery over the short, medium and long term. Curated by former Section 151 officers, local authority Chief Executives and transformation specialists, with over 20 years’ experience of working in challenging UK local authority environments, SUSTAIN blends best-in-class data and insight with tried and tested methods, lines of enquiry and delivery and assurance tools. We help discern, develop, agree and deliver opportunities for a secure financial future and the achievement of wider goals. Co-production and commitment to change is at the heart of our work. Inner Circle believes in a regenerative model of consulting focused on building capacity, confidence, capability, hope - and independence. While no two engagements are the same, a typical adoption of the SUSTAIN framework and programme would build a joint core team of ICC and Council staff to:
  • Work across your organisation to rapidly test and challenge key lines of enquiry based on best practice and innovation, give an assessment of your in-flight activity, and offer insight from real time data;
  • jointly build propositions to close your budget gap and design an implementation programme capable of delivery, including an assessment of capability and capacity requirements, investment costs, funding options and ROI/benefits realisation;
  • establish an assurance regime that satisfies government regulators, best value inspectors and the requirements of the emerging Best Value Standards and Intervention Guidance.
  • help to determine the scale and duration of any required government support and stand alongside you in that discussion.
Typical outcomes of a SUSTAIN engagement could include:
  • A shared and agreed understanding of your financial challenge one year, three years and five years from now.
  • Top team commitment to delivering opportunities that can address the challenges you face, close your budget gap and avoid a S114 or recover from one. Includes developing high-level financial cases for change and securing commitment of key stakeholders to deliver across the spectrum of services appropriate to your type of Council, including Adults and Children, SEND and Homelessness if relevant.
  • The co-production final business cases, if required.
  • A co-designed plan for delivery, including an overall programme design, and implementation resource and capability assessment, along with a plan to fund the programme and to build the implementation team.
  • Recommended changes to your operating model as demanded by the cases for change.
  • The tools, methods and appropriate governance you need to deliver your programme and provide assurance along the way, plus training for key staff to use these tools.
  • An independent assessment of your arrangements to satisfy the requirements of the Best Value Interventions Framework and a remediation plan where gaps are identified.
  • For those Councils on the cusp of a Section 114 or subject to one, a detailed recovery plan capable of assuring DLUHC officials and ministers of your readiness for change and the leadership to deliver.
Sustain is relevant for Councils who have declared a Section 114 notice, those concerned one may be imminent, and those who feel they must act now to mitigate the risk of one happening. For a confidential conversation about how we can help contact Chris Naylor at [email protected]
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