Performance Improvement in the Public Sector Finalist 2022: KPMG with Birmingham City Council

Performance Improvement in the Public Sector

Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in Europe and twice the size of the next largest authority in the UK. In recent years it has faced a number of significant challenges, such as when the Kerslake Review was published in 2015, which resulted in the Government putting in an Improvement Panel to oversee planned improvements. Separately, a review of the council’s financial management by CIPFA in 2019 gave the council a one-star rating, noting “a damaging lack of accountability for fiscal performance.”

When a new Assistant Director of Service Finance was appointed in 2020, she was determined to turn this around – and enlisted KPMG to help drive a finance transformation. We are proud to have been their delivery partner from day one. This includes defining an ambitious vision for the Finance function, supporting technical design considerations for a new ERP system, transforming key finance processes, changing cultures and ways of working within siloed teams, creating a new development framework for staff progression, and seconding individuals to deliver key elements of the accounting function.

Our work has gone much wider than finance processes – helping change the culture within the team and boosting Finance’s standing as a business partner to other key functions in the council.

Many of the tools and templates that we have worked with Finance to introduce have also been adopted by other functions within the Council Management Directorate. We have helped establish Finance as an exemplar that other teams in the council can learn and benefit from.

The results have been rapid and impressive. CIPFA’s second review saw the council receive a three-star rating just eighteen months later – a year ahead of target – putting it in the top quartile of authorities. CIPFA noted that “Birmingham has real potential to achieve four-star status”.

Finance has also begun to shine externally – such as being shortlisted for two awards (Covid-19 Leader of the Year, and Achievement in Financial Reporting and Accountability) in the 2021 Public Finance awards.

The strength of the progress being made has also led Sara Pitt, Director of Finance, to embark on a mini-roadshow with other councils around the Midlands – sharing the learnings, insights and improvements the team has been deriving. There is a visible difference in the Finance team itself too, which took on eight apprentices last year – the biggest intake in recent memory and a sign of its new confidence for the future.

At KPMG, we are proud to have been supporting Birmingham City Council in one of the biggest financial transformation projects ever seen in the public sector. The work is driving significant operational improvements and helping propel Finance towards its vision of becoming truly ‘best in class’. We continue to be a trusted partner in improvements across the resources function.

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