Balancing budgets and priorities

arvato and Sefton Council work together to achieve efficiency savings in a time of austerity

Challenge: to deliver in a diverse borough

The Metropolitan Borough of Sefton, extending from Southport in the north to Bootle in the south, is a diverse borough of over 280,000 citizens containing some of the UK’s most affluent and most deprived districts.

arvato agreed a 10-year partnership with Sefton Council in 2008 to provide a wide range of services, including customer services, revenues and benefits, payroll, pensions, transactional human resources, accounts payable and ICT; supported by transformation and change expertise to ensure successful transitions to new ways of working. Approximately 450 Council staff were transferred to arvato on their current terms and conditions.

In these times of austerity, outsourcing works only when there is a true sense of partnership. arvato’s willingness to adapt and respond to our changing priorities has been fundamental to our success. We know we’re both in it for the long term, so we tackle the challenges together.

Margaret Carney, Chief Executive, Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council

Solution: to be flexible and focused

The partnership delivered an immediate cost saving of 10%, equating to £20m over the ten-year contract and includes more than £4m investment in ICT infrastructure. Following the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Council carried out a detailed review of its controllable budgets, working closely with arvato to prioritise its activities in order to achieve its required targets.

In 2011-12, the partnership delivered an additional £1.6m of contributions on top of the 10% day-one savings, including £600,000 ‘one-off’ savings, £500,000 in additional income and £500,000 of annual, sustainable savings. At the same time, it delivered 97.68% of all Key Performance Indicators. Customer satisfaction is at an all time high averaging 89.7%. 

Successes: through people, processes and ICT

  • Self-service payment kiosks were introduced at Bootle and Southport One Stop Shops:
    • reducing the need for ‘live’ cashiering by 50 hours a week
    • processing more than 64,000 self-service transactions
    • collecting £7m of revenues
  • ‘BECS’ eBenefits system has halved processing times and the number of contacts claimants need to make.
  • Benefits roadshows were also held across Sefton giving citizens information and advice on entitlement and eligibility.
  • Flexible working has helped retain expertise and maintain morale:
    • more than 30 staff now work from home: 37% of the Benefits team, 13% of the Revenues team and 8% of the Systems and Compliance team.
    • a 15% target increase in accuracy and productivity is anticipated
  • Using customer insights has improved council tax collection rates by identifying households with late or missed payments, households that ought to be able to pay versus those struggling to pay, and households likely to pay via Direct Debit and take up e-billing options.
  • Sole Occupier Discount review, run with Experian, will bring in in more than £300,000 in additional Council Tax income once collected.
  • Benefit Fraud Investigation Team revealed overpayments in 2010/11 of more than £500,000 in Housing and Council Tax Benefit.
  • Approximately 100 ICT improvement projects have been implemented, over more than 15,000 development days, including replacing and modernising the Council’s entire ICT infrastructure.
  • Managed Print Service reduced 1,500 devices to 220 and will produce savings of £1m over the 5-year contract.
  • New electronic system for CRB checks cut processing times from 25 days on average to two days, and reduced error rates to zero.

Services: key services for Sefton

  • Customer Services
  • Revenues and Benefits
  • Payroll
  • Pensions Administration
  • Transactional & Strategic HR
  • Accounts Payable
  • ICT
  • Transformation and Change

There are regular meetings with staff representatives, who are consulted on policy changes. This fosters a sense of involvement in higher level decision making and promotes good relations with management. Equally, the staff perspective on improvements has produced a smoother change process.

Investors in People Report, November 2011


Winner: ‘Outsourcing Works – Delivering Business Value in Outsourcing’, National Outsourcing Association Awards 2012

Winner: Silver Award for Partnership Working, Institute of Revenues, Rating & Valuation (IRRV) Performance Awards 2012

Finalist: ‘Public Sector Outsourcing Project of the Year’, National Outsourcing Association Awards 2012

Finalist: Most Improved Team of the Year, Institute of Revenues, Rating & Valuation (IRRV) Performance Awards 2012

Finalist: Partnership in Professional Services, LGC Business Partnership Awards