Joining forces to provide sustainable Building Control Services in Essex
Joining forces to provide sustainable Building Control Services in Essex

Increasingly councils need to collaborate to secure economies of scale and make the most of opportunities to work together.  District councils in Essex, along with the Unitary councils of Thurrock and Southend on Sea, began working together in 2014 in an effort to maximise their capacity and competitiveness by joining up building control services across the county. The challenge arose as a result of the private sector beginning to win more business that was previously delivered by the public sector. The purpose of the project was to create a stronger, more competitive and resilient shared service with the potential for developing a greater skill base through the recruitment and retention of high quality staff.

The East of England LGA, using funding from its Investment Programme, commissioned Blue Marble Partners to deliver a Solution Centre process, working with the councils in Essex to identify the best possible solution to this challenge. A core “Solution Group” of senior officers worked together to create a shared vision and ambition of what the future building control service might look like. The new service would need to use the strengths it already possessed, such as a large client base across the county, strong public sector ethos and values and high market share in certain areas of activity. However, it would also need to develop further skills, including marketing and promotion of what can be offered and to start to develop the market share in the traditional weaker areas of activity.

A “shared service” model was the recommendation which emerged from the Solution Centre including the establishment of an Essex Building Control Board meeting quarterly to provide strategic direction. Whilst there were risks associated with the project, the Solution Centre was able to identify the current strengths of the competitors in the region and how that these may be countered in the future. A business case was developed for the shared service model, with a host authority to employ all staff and act as a lead for day to day operations. The high level of engagement from councils across the county demonstrated the necessity to counter the problems that were outlined by the original Solution Centre.

Implementation work is underway with the host authority, Colchester Borough Council, now identified and beginning the process of bringing the various Building Control teams together. 

Getting the right people in the room to make this happen and clearly identify the problems and issues that were arising was key to the success of this project. With a business case agreed, additional financial commitment secured and an overarching steering group in place, there is a strong foundation for managing progress and ensuring that the identified benefits of the project are realised in implementation. Regular communication with partners on progress and achievements has also been critical to ensuring that change is implemented successfully and at pace.

The project outputs provided participating councils with the right tools to take up a significant opportunity, securing the ongoing sustainability and competitiveness of their Building Control Services.

For further information please contact:
Eddie Gibson, Senior Manager at East of England LGA Eddie.gibson@eelga.gov.uk 01284 758310