SLC’s ten golden rules for options appraisals have been developed from our learning over the years in taking Councils through their future options for Culture and Sport services. Duncan Wood-Allum authored guidance still being used by the Improvement and Development Agency on Options Appraisals and Business Cases for Culture and Sport. We hope you’ll find our ten golden rules to compliment that guidance useful and thought provoking!

1. Look to the future

  • Ensure your Council is clear about the facilities and services it will need to provide or enable in the future – do not assume your current stock of facilities and services is fit for purpose!
  • In most cases it won’t be and you should seek to address this at the earliest opportunity.
  • Remember you are not just resolving a short term problem, you are taking a strategic decision.

2. Establish deep links with those most likely to commission your services

  • Embed yourself with strategic stakeholders in Health, Education and Adult and Social Care – understand their agendas and opportunities to help them achieve their outcomes.

3. Look beyond your boundaries

  • Explore combining Culture and Sport offers together to optimise your economies of scale  – small Trusts / Partnerships / Contracts rarely prosper – don’t let people get too precious about their services being ‘unique’.
  • Seek to combine your service offer with other authorities where possible – you can reduce costs of procurement and management / back office costs through cross border partnerships / joint posts etc.

4. Don’t follow the stampede – do what’s right for your community

  • Don’t assume a particular option is right for you because others have followed that path – keep an independent position until you have all the facts to hand and ensure self interest does not affect any of your decision making.
  • You may be working your way out of a job – but remember courageous leaders are always in demand.

5. Prepare your staff today for change tomorrow

  • Keep communicating to your staff – remember they are your service.
  • Identify the skills you will need to procure or have in the future and begin to make those changes through training and development / organisational redesign.
  • Think too about capacity building for your Voluntary Sector Partners – they will be playing a wider role if properly supported and resourced.

6. Take your politicians with you

  • Engage with and bring your politicians on the journey to transform your services. Ultimately, it is they who will take the decisions and as such, they need to champion your approach
  • Keep them engaged and on board by showing them successful models in operation elsewhere.

7. Tackle your portfolio now – it’s easier in a recession!

  • Decommission old facilities and poorly performing services prior to externalising your service, or integrate the improvements into the deal – give your operating partner quality facilities to operate in the future and your community will love you for it!

8. Use best practice / best advice where you can

  • Use the quality guidance available to support your options appraisals such as that provided by Local Government Improvement and Development (Previously ID&eA)
  • Take advice from a range of experts who have successfully supported Councils in the past with recommendations specific to their authority, not just a set of recommendations ‘off the shelf’.
  • Be prepared to use an adviser who will actively challenge you – you need a critical friend – not a lapdog on this journey.

9. Understand risk

  • Make sure you understand the full financial and legal risks of the options you are exploring. Costs relating to building maintenance, repair and utilities need to be carefully considered – who will be responsible for them in future?

10. Keep engaging with your community

  • Ensure lines of communication with your community are kept open throughout your review, in particular, keep your community up to date on progress and involve them where you can.
  • Communicate the challenges you are facing to manage expectations and identify opportunities and ideas that come from the community.

If you would like to talk to us about your Options Appraisal, particularly if you are planning on undertaking this from December 2010 onwards, for an informal chat, please contact  Duncan Wood-Allum on 07930 549580 or email him here.