Slapped wrist for Ignite
Readers of this months Leveller® will notice a small item on p12. It is about an investigation by Somerset West and Taunton’s internal audit team. They are looking at the costs and efficiency of the work the consultancy Ignite carried out last year. Ignite led the merger between Taunton Deane and West Somerset Councils to create the new Somerset West and Taunton Council. Work for which the Leveller® understands they were paid around £1.2m for.
So proud were Ignite of this work, that they boast about it as a case study on their website. Here Ignite state “The operating model delivered all financial benefits identified in the business case; >£3m/year with an ROI <3yr, creating a healthy and sustainable financial position.”
This offended David Orr, a Taunton based campaigner for open government. So much so that he launched a complaint with the advertising standards authority. First as regards the statement by Ignite about their success he says “All of the above means that none of the claimed savings of £3m per year or the Return on Investment will ever be made.” He goes on to say in his complaint “I regard this published Case Study to be an advert for Ignite’s services (to generate further sales) by making claims that are demonstrably false and unachieved. Other councils may be misled and yet more public money wasted.”
Of course anyone can complain. The key question is, was it a valid complaint.
Today we have an answer. We understand that the ASA have upheld Mr Orr’s complaint. In an email the ASA explain “We’ve assessed the ad you highlighted and, from the information we have, we think it likely to have breached the Advertising Codes that we administer. We are writing to let you know that we have taken steps to address this. We have explained these concerns to Ignite Consulting Ltd and provided guidance to them on the areas that require attention, together with advice on how to ensure that their advertising complies with the Codes.”
All well and good, but at the time of writing the article on SW&T is still on Ignite’s website with all the offending claims still very much in place.
In the meantime we await news of the internal audit review of the merger and the costs inherited by SW&T as a result of what many have seen as a botched process. The County Gazette for instance reported that far from saving money, the merger had led to over £5.6m being paid out in redundancy fees.
But while SW&T are taking action to identify what went wrong and hold Ignite to account, they are not the only council to have employed Ignite in Somerset.
South Somerset District Council also used Ignite for their “Transformation Project” which has also resulted in large redundancy payouts, organisational chaos and lots of agency staff covering jobs that had been made redundant.
So far there is no word of any action, any review or audit process at SSDC. Perhaps they are simply happy with all the work Ignite did?
Makes you wonder what business skills, experience and knowledge the decision makers at Council level have.
Mike Rigby Executive Councillor for Planning at SWT Council 5th June stated:
“This [transformation project to form the new Somerset West and Taunton Council] is a spectacular failure. An uncontrolled exodus of staff, walking away with tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds, in advance of a “digital revolution” that never arrived. The council thought it could lose 120 staff as 250 council services went online. The problem is that 191 staff left while fewer than 20 services are available online. No consideration as to whether any of those 191 staff were carrying out essential duties so now we’re having to fill many of the redundant roles. An utter shambles foisted on us by the Conservatives. It’ll take some time to put this all back together.”