Best Value in Public Services: Guidance for Accountable Officers

Listen

SECTION 2 - BEST VALUE THEMES

BEST VALUE THEMES

17. Previous versions of the Best Value guidance were structured around the nine characteristics for Best Value as listed in the SPFM. This refreshed guidance groups these into five themes and two cross-cutting themes. This change reflects the experience of applying Best Value across the Scottish public sector over the last few years and the context within which Public Bodies now work. The five themes, and the relationship to the Best Value characteristics as listed in the SPFM, are:

  • Vision and Leadership( SPFM - "commitment and leadership", "responsiveness and consultation" and "sound governance at a strategic and operational level");
  • Effective Partnerships( SPFM - "joint working" and "responsiveness and consultation");
  • Governance and Accountability( SPFM - "responsiveness and consultation", "commitment and leadership" and "accountability");
  • Use of resources( SPFM - "sound management of resources" and "use of review and options appraisal"); and
  • Performance Management( SPFM - "Sound governance at a strategic and operational level" and "responsiveness and consultation").

18. The two cross-cutting themes which a Best Value organisation should fully embrace across all of its activities are:

  • Equality( SPFM - "Equal Opportunities arrangements"); and
  • Sustainability ( SPFM - "A Contribution to Sustainable Development").

19. Any organisation with a duty of Best Value must be able to demonstrate a focus on continuous improvement in performance around each of these themes and the delivery of outcomes. The themes are illustrated in Diagram 1 (overleaf) and are described in turn in this section.

Diagram 1 - Best Value themes

Diagram 1 - Best Value themes

VISION AND LEADERSHIP

The "Vision and Leadership" theme focuses on how a Best Value organisation achieves an open and inclusive leadership style, with a clear vision and sense of purpose, securing continuous improvement and improved outcomes with transparent, accountable processes and robust governance.

This maps to SPFM listed characteristics: "commitment and leadership", "responsiveness and consultation" and "sound governance at a strategic and operational level"

OVERVIEW

A Best Value organisation will have in place a clear vision and strategic direction for what it will do to contribute to the delivery of improved outcomes for Scotland's people, making Scotland a better place to live and a more prosperous and successful country. The strategy will display a clear sense of purpose and place and be effectively communicated to all staff and stakeholders. The strategy will show a clear direction of travel and will be led by Senior Staff in an open and inclusive leadership approach, underpinned by clear plans and strategies (aligned to resources) which reflect a commitment to continuous improvement.

EVIDENCE

An organisation working to secure Best Value will be able to demonstrate:

Strategic

  • that Executive and Non-Executive leadership are involved in setting clear direction and organisational strategy (sensitive to the context in which the organisation is working) and that there is a mechanism for internal scrutiny (by both Executive and Non-Executive leadership) of performance and service outcomes.
  • that strategic priorities are agreed, reviewed and updated on a regular basis and that leaders communicate the strategy to all staff and stakeholders and ensure that it is translated into meaningful actions and outcomes.
  • that overall strategic priorities are informed by a good understanding of the needs of the organisation's stakeholders, the Scottish Government Strategic Objectives and how the individual Public Body is making a contribution to sustainable development.
  • that Executive and Non-Executive leadership and senior managers have developed a vision of how Best Value contributes to achieving effective outcomes for the organisation and that this is communicated clearly in relevant corporate and operational documents.
  • that both the setting of priorities and the assessment of performance are undertaken transparently and openly.
  • that Executive and Non-Executive leadership ensure accountability and transparency through effective performance reporting for both internal and external stakeholders and that there is a willingness to be open to external scrutiny, for example, through formal external accreditation tools.
  • that Executive and Non-Executive leadership demonstrate a commitment to high standards of probity and propriety and that the organisation has, and implements, appropriate codes of conduct for all staff, directors and trustees.

Operational

  • that the organisation has a strategy with realistic and achievable objectives and targets which are matched to their financial, asset base and other resources and which is explicitly translated into clear responsibilities for implementation.
  • that statements, strategies and plans clearly show a systematic approach by the organisation towards risk management.
  • that there are clear statements about how the organisation is working with partner organisations to provide joined up services that meet stakeholder and community needs in the most effective manner, including through Community Planning Partnerships where relevant.
  • that there are mechanisms within the organisation to develop leadership skills and that Executive and Non-Executive staff in leadership roles have the key skills and exhibit the behaviours which make them highly effective.
  • that there is an explicit and systematic approach to integrating continuous improvement into everyday working practices and involving all staff in developing the organisation's approach to Best Value.
  • that the interdependencies between different activities and outcomes are recognised and effective co-ordination and alignment is actively championed by senior management.

EFFECTIVE PARTNERSHIPS

The "Effective Partnerships" theme focuses on how a Best Value organisation engages with partners in order to secure continuous improvement and improved outcomes for communities, not only through its own work but also that of its partners.

This maps to SPFM listed characteristics: "joint working" and "responsiveness and consultation"

OVERVIEW

A Best Value organisation will show how it, and its partnerships, are displaying effective collaborative leadership in identifying and adapting their service delivery to the challenges that clients and communities face. The organisation will have a clear focus on the collaborative gain which can be achieved through collaborative working and community engagement in order to facilitate the achievement of its strategic objectives and outcomes.

EVIDENCE

An organisation working to secure Best Value will be able to demonstrate:

Strategic

  • an organisational culture which recognises the value of working with wider stakeholders and partners to achieve more effective and sustainable policy development, better services and customer-focused outcomes.
  • that leaders and senior managers actively encourage opportunities for formal and informal partnerships, including through joint use of resources and joint funding options, where this will offer scope for improvement in outcomes, as well as continuous improvement in organisational performance.
  • that the organisation is clear about the intended outcomes and likely impacts of partnership working and that it has identified, and is sensitive to, the needs of the potentially different communities it and its partners serve.
  • that partnerships plans are informed by engagement with stakeholders and the communities affected by the work of the organisations involved in the relevant partnership.
  • that partnership plans have agreed a set of measures and targets to track progress and can clearly demonstrate (and regularly reports on) the impact of, and the outcomes from, any partnership working.
  • that where the partnership is involved in joint delivery, governance arrangements include:
    (a) agreeing appropriate respective roles and commitments and areas of collective responsibility;
    (b) integrated management of resources where appropriate;
    (c) effective monitoring of collective performance; and
    (d) joint problem-solving and learning.

Operational

  • that, where appropriate, the organisation participates effectively in Community Planning Partnerships and other joint working initiatives, working openly to agreed objectives, performance management and reporting mechanisms and integrating these into local planning mechanisms to deliver outcomes.
  • that leaders address impediments and barriers which inhibit integrated approaches to joint funding and joint management of activities with internal and external partners and undertake appropriate engagement (including with the Scottish Government) where this would help promote more effective use of resources and better value for money.
  • that the organisation seeks to explore and promote opportunities for efficiency savings and service improvements through shared service initiatives with partners.

GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY

The "Governance and Accountability" theme focuses on how a Best Value organisation achieves effective governance arrangements, which help support Executive and Non-Executive leadership decision-making, provide suitable assurances to stakeholders on how all available resources are being used in delivering outcomes and give accessible explanation of the activities of the organisation and the outcomes delivered.

This maps to SPFM listed characteristics: "responsiveness and consultation", "accountability" and "commitment and leadership"

OVERVIEW

A Best Value organisation will be able to demonstrate structures, policies and leadership behaviours which support the application of good standards of governance and accountability in how the organisation is improving efficiency, focusing on priorities and achieving value for money in delivering its outcomes. These good standards will be reflected in clear roles, responsibilities and relationships within the organisation. Good governance arrangements will provide the supporting framework for the overall delivery of Best Value and will ensure open-ness and transparency. Public reporting should show the impact of the organisations activities, with clear links between the activities and what outcomes are being delivered to customers and stakeholders. Good governance provides an assurance that the organisation has a suitable focus on continuous improvement and quality. Outwith the organisation, good governance will show itself through an organisational commitment to public performance reporting about the quality of activities being delivered and commitments for future delivery.

EVIDENCE

An organisation working to secure Best Value will be able to demonstrate:

Strategic

  • that it has developed a corporate plan which is focussed on the successful delivery of outcomes, takes account of statutory responsibilities and is translated into specific actions to be carried out at both corporate and operational levels to achieve those outcomes.
  • that plans, priorities and actions are informed by an understanding of the needs of its stakeholders, citizens, customers and employees.
  • that decision-making processes are open, transparent and clearly based on evidence that can show clear links between the activities and the outcomes to be delivered to customers and stakeholders.
  • that the approach to Public Performance Reporting approach is balanced, enabling the discharge of statutory requirements together with provision of concise, relevant and accessible reporting of information that is useful for the public and other stakeholders, including information on use of financial resources.
  • that where delivery is through others, a robust framework of corporate governance is in place to manage that delivery which sets out roles and responsibilities, objectives and outcomes and a process for performance and risk management and reporting.
  • that the organisation has a framework for planning and budgeting that includes detailed and realistic plans linked to available resources together with an effective system for financial stewardship and reporting in order to achieve the organisation's goals, ensure appropriate financial governance, deliver high-quality and efficient services and ensuring continuous improvement in both performance and delivery of outcomes.

Operational

  • that organisational budgets and other resources are allocated and regularly monitored to ensure that they are not only delivering agreed objectives but also (crucially) outcomes in a manner which is keeping a suitable balance between cost, quality and price in making the best use of public resources.
  • that the organisation has a robust framework of corporate governance to not only manage delivery of, and reporting on, outcomes but also provide assurance (using quantitative as well as qualitative indicators) to relevant stakeholders that there are effective internal control systems in operation. This includes compliance with the SPFM and other relevant guidance which may reasonably be regarded as proper arrangements for this purpose.
  • that it ensures that its approach to external accountability is supported by its governance arrangements, including an Outcomes Based Approach 4 continually improving the clarity of reporting structures, responsiveness and accessibility for all stakeholders.
  • that the organisation regularly conducts review and option appraisal processes of all areas of work that are rigorous and transparent and develop improvement actions which are clearly described, readily understood, clearly explained in terms of importance, relevance and priority and demonstrably integrated into the organisation's management arrangements.
  • that the organisation has in place appropriate mechanisms for ensuring that it is aware of citizen, customer, partner and stakeholder views, perceptions, and expectations so that these can inform its actions including its improvement actions.

USE OF RESOURCES

The "Use of Resources" theme focuses on how a Best Value organisation ensures that it makes effective, risk-aware and evidence-based decisions on the use of all of its resources.

This maps to SPFM listed characteristics:"sound management of resources" and "use of review and options appraisal"

OVERVIEW

A Best Value organisation will show that it is conscious of being publicly funded in everything it does. The organisation will be able to show how its effective management of all resources (including staff, assets, information and communications technology ( ICT), procurement and knowledge) is contributing to delivery of specific outcomes.

EVIDENCE

An organisation working to secure Best Value will be able to demonstrate:

Strategic

  • that it is making the best use of public resources (including employees, ICT, land, property and financial resources) based on evidence and intelligence-led - keeping a considered and appropriate balance between quality, sustainability and cost.
  • that leaders and managers regularly review the management of resources across all activities, including their impact on outcomes.
  • that the organisation ensures that it has the organisational capacity to implement its plans makes full use of its staff and that any relevant statutory and professional responsibilities of its staff are appropriately supported through an appropriate policy of Continuous Professional Development ( CPD).
  • that all employees are treated as a key strategic resource and are supported (by an appropriate combination of approaches, ideas and techniques) in actively managing how they bring further learning to their role and add value to the Public Body.
  • that it has a strategy for procurement and the management of contracts (and contractors) which treats procurement as a key component in achieving its objectives and outcomes.
  • it has regard to obligations under State Aid rules 6.
  • it is aware of the need to conduct its business in a manner which demonstrates appropriate competitive practice.
  • that it maintains an effective system for financial stewardship and reporting in order to ensure appropriate financial governance as well as provide evidence to support continuous improvement.
  • that it has in place a systematic approach to risk management in relation to the organisation's resources which is cascaded as appropriate throughout the organisation.
  • that there is a robust information governance framework in place that ensures proper recording and transparency of all the organisation's activities and supports appropriate exploitation of the value of the organisation's information.

Operational

  • that the interdependencies between different activities and outcomes are recognised, that organisational budgets and other resources are allocated and regularly monitored to ensure that they are delivering agreed objectives and outcomes and effective co-ordination and alignment is actively championed by senior management in making the best use of public resources.
  • that the organisational procurement processes are economic, sustainable in the longer-term, efficient and ensure the outcomes of efficient contract management and comply with the SPFM and other relevant guidance which may reasonably be regarded as proper arrangements for this purpose.
  • that the organisation has evaluated and assessed opportunities for efficiency savings and service improvements, including through joint funding, joint management of activities with internal and external partners and sharing initiatives with partners.
  • that the organisation ensures that all employees are managed effectively and efficiently, that they know what is expected of them, their performance is regularly assessed and they are assisted in improving.
  • that the contribution of staff to ensuring continuous improvement is supported, managed, reviewed and acknowledged by effective management.
  • that fixed assets including land, property, ICT, machinery and vehicles are managed efficiently and effectively and that asset bases are aligned appropriately to organisational strategies.

PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT

The "Performance Management" theme focuses on how a Best Value organisation embeds a culture and supporting processes which ensures that it has a clear and accurate understanding of how all parts of the organisation are performing and that, based on this knowledge, it takes action that leads to demonstrable continuous improvement in performance and outcomes.

This maps to SPFM listed characteristics:"sound governance at a strategic and operational level" and "responsiveness and consultation"

OVERVIEW

A Best Value organisation will ensure that robust arrangements are in place to monitor the achievement of outcomes (possibly delivered across multiple partnerships) as well as reporting on specific activities and projects. It will use intelligence to make open and transparent decisions within a culture which is action and improvement oriented and manages risk. The organisation will provide a clear line of sight from individual actions through to the National Outcomes and the National Performance Framework. The measures used to manage and report on performance will also enable the organisation to provide assurances on quality and link this to continuous improvement and the delivery of efficient and effective outcomes.

EVIDENCE

An organisation working to secure Best Value will be able to demonstrate:

Strategic

  • that leaders champion the use of performance management (including self assessment) as a key means for achieving improvement. Leaders lead by example in proactively managing performance and talking publicly about improving performance.
  • that it has in place effective approaches to performance management, (which includes the use of baseline assessments, external comparison and improvement tools and techniques) through which performance issues (including the benchmarking of corporate services with other Public Bodies 7) can be identified, monitored and addressed to ensure continuous improvement and identification of opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
  • that clients, citizens and other stakeholders are involved in developing indicators and targets and monitoring and managing performance.
  • that the organisation links Performance Management with Risk Management to support prioritisation and decision-making at Executive level and support continuous improvement.
  • that performance is systematically measured across all key areas of activity and that a performance management framework for the organisation extends throughout the structures of delivery in order to ensure effective governance and accountability and enable public performance mechanisms which track delivery outputs and outcomes through to high level objectives.
  • that the organisation's performance management system is based on a culture of constructive challenge that is effective in addressing areas of underperformance, identifying the scope for improvement, agreeing remedial action, sharing good practice and monitoring implementation.

Operational

  • that performance management is seen as part of the day job - integral to the way in which all staff operate. There is learning across the organisation on how to improve performance with time and opportunities explicitly made available to do so.
  • that the performance management system is sufficiently flexible to allow for any necessary differences across the organisation and encourage wide ownership of performance management.
  • that performance is reported upon systematically to staff and management, Executive and Non-Executive leadership, users and the public.
  • that the information provided through public performance reporting allows stakeholders to compare performance against:
  • objectives, targets and service outcomes;
  • past performance;
  • improvement plans;
  • where relevant, the performance of other bodies; and
  • allows stakeholders to make a reasonable and informed judgement on how the organisation is likely to perform in future.
  • that information provided in each case is relevant to its audience and clearly shows whether strategic and operational objectives and targets are being met.
  • that reports are honest and balanced, and include information about what improvements are required during the forthcoming period.

CROSS-CUTTING THEME - SUSTAINABILITY

This section should be read in conjunction with "Public Bodies Climate Change Duties: putting them into practice", guidance on the public bodies duties set out in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009

The "Sustainability" theme is one of the two cross-cutting themes and focuses on how a Best Value organisation has embedded a sustainable development focus in its work.

This maps to SPFM listed characteristic: "A contribution to sustainable development"

OVERVIEW

The goal of Sustainable Development is to enable all people throughout the world to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life without compromising the quality of life of future generations 8. Sustainability is integral to an overall Best Value approach and an obligation to 'act in a way which it considers is most sustainable' is one of the three 'public bodies duties' set out in section 44 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.

The duty to act sustainably placed upon Public Bodies by the Climate Change Act will require Public Bodies to routinely balance their decisions and consider the wide range of impacts of their actions, beyond reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and over both the short and the long term.

The concept of 'sustainability' is one which is still evolving. However, five broad principles of sustainability have been identified as:

  • promoting good governance;
  • living within environmental limits;
  • achieving a sustainable economy;
  • ensuring a stronger healthier society; and
  • using sound science responsibly.

Guidance from Scottish Ministers. ("Public Bodies Climate Change Duties: putting them into practice") assists Public Bodies in their response to the Climate Change Act duties 9. In examining how an individual public body responds to climate change duties, the guidance will suggest a degree of "proportionality" in recognition of the fact that Public Bodies' responses to climate change is likely to be proportionate to their level of influence on it. However, the guidance will also encourage Public Bodies, as well as reducing their own emissions and promoting sustainability within their own organisations, to lead by example and promote climate change action more widely.

Individual Public Bodies may wish to consider comparisons within the wider public sector, rather than within their usual public sector "family". This will assist them in getting an accurate gauge of their true scale and level of influence, as well as a more accurate assessment of the potential impact of any decisions they choose to make.

A Best Value organisation will demonstrate an effective use of resources in the short-term and an informed prioritisation of the use of resources in the longer-term in order to bring about sustainable development. Public bodies should also prepare for future changes as a result of emissions that have already taken place. Public Bodies will need to ensure that they are resilient enough to continue to deliver the public services on which we all rely.

An organisation subject to the existing Best Value duty is already required to demonstrate, amongst other characteristics, that robust arrangements are in place to monitor the achievement of outcomes (possibly delivered across multiple partnerships or through contracts) as well as reporting on specific activities and projects.

Sustainability will therefore require reporting through appropriate public performance reporting systems. Where such mechanisms do not exist, individual Public Bodies will (within the relevant guidance) be free to determine how best to report them, in line with Best Value principles set out earlier in this guidance.

In addition, certain Public Bodies 10 will also be aware of a requirement for the mandatory inclusion of sustainability reports within the Annual Reports and Accounts of affected bodies from the 2011/12 financial year. (These reports are to cover performance against sustainability targets for greenhouse gas emissions, waste minimisation and management and the use of finite resources, and their related expenditure). Further detailed guidance will be prepared in due course and more information can be obtained from the Climate Change Duties Guidance site 11.

EVIDENCE

An organisation working to secure Best Value will be able to demonstrate:

Strategic

  • how it is making a contribution to sustainable development by actively considering the social, economic and environmental impacts of activities and decisions both in the shorter and longer term, underpinning the principles of:
  • promoting good governance

actively supporting effective participative system of governance in all levels of society - engaging people's creativity, energy and diversity;

  • living within environmental limits

respecting the limits of the planet's environment, resources and biodiversity - to improve our environment and ensure that the natural resources needed for life are unimpaired and remain so for future generations;

  • achieving a sustainable economy

building a strong, stable and sustainable economy which provides prosperity and opportunities for all, and in which environmental and social costs fall on those who impose them (polluter pays) and efficient resource use is incentivise;

  • ensuring a strong, healthy and just society

meeting the diverse needs of all people in existing and future communities, promoting personal well-being, social cohesion and inclusion, and creating equal opportunity; and

  • using sound science responsibly

ensuring policy is developed and implemented on the basis of strong scientific evidence, whilst taking into account scientific uncertainty (through the precautionary principle) as well as public attitudes and values.

Operational

  • Diagnostic questions to assist public bodies in equipping themselves to devise procedures for 'sustainability-proofing' their decision-making processes, and to balance social, economic and environmental impacts (amongst others) in assessment of policies and strategies will be available in the Public Bodies Climate Change Duties Guidance available in 2011.

CROSS-CUTTING THEME - EQUALITY

This section should be read in conjunction with guidance on the UK Equality Act 2010 which will become available in 2011.

The "Equality" theme is one of the two cross-cutting themes and focuses on how a Best Value organisation has embedded an equalities focus which will secure continuous improvement in delivering equality.

OVERVIEW

Equality is integral to all our work as demonstrated by its positioning as a cross-cutting theme. Public Bodies have a range of legal duties and responsibilities with regard to equality. A Best Value organisation will demonstrate that consideration of equality issues is embedded in its vision and strategic direction and throughout all of its work.

The equality impact of policies and practices delivered through partnerships should always be considered. A focus on setting equality outcomes at the individual Public Body level will also encourage equality to be considered at the partnership level.

EVIDENCE

An organisation working to secure Best Value will be able to demonstrate:

Strategic

  • that it meets the requirements of equality legislation, has a culture which encourages equal opportunities 12 and is working towards the elimination of discrimination.
  • that Executive and Non-Executive leadership and senior managers recognise the diversity of their customers and stakeholders, engage in an open, fair and inclusive dialogue to ensure information on services and performance is accessible to all and commit to contribute to the achievement of equal opportunities in all it does.
  • that the organisation ensures that all members of staff are informed of the organisational commitment to, and objectives for, equality outcomes and that the contribution by the organisation to the achievement of equality outcomes is reflected throughout the corporate processes.

Operational

  • that the organisation reflects in its planning, design and continuous improvement of services that different groups within the community have different needs, which must be taken into account to allow them to access those services.
  • that equality is mainstreamed into all the processes.
  • that the organisation can demonstrate that all leaders and senior officers within the organisation are committed to considering the needs of equality groups in their policies, functions and services, where relevant.
  • that the organisation, wherever relevant, collects information and data on the impact of policies, services and functions on different equality groups to help inform future decisions and that it engages with and involves equality groups to improve and inform the development of relevant policy and practice.
  • that as part of the Performance Management approach the organisation regularly measures and reports their performance in contributing to the achievement of equality outcomes.