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Case study

How collaboration and innovation is improving risk management in UK local authorities

Together with Barnet Council, we're transforming assurance and risk management within public bodies through training, knowledge sharing and greater use of technology.

The challenge

Across the UK, some 400 Councils provide thousands of vital local services, often to the most vulnerable people in society. Councils are faced with the challenge of building and maintaining citizen trust, alongside protecting public funds at a time when their budgets are under increased pressure.

To help address this challenge Barnet Council, in collaboration with seven other councils, had a vision for an arrangement where local authorities and other public bodies could access high quality assurance and risk management services while benefiting from economies of scale. This would also create a new network for local authorities, enabling them to collaborate, innovate and share knowledge around their common goals.

The approach

The Council created a framework approach that enables councils and other public bodies to efficiently access risk and assurance services, both individually and as a group. This solution was chosen by Barnet to deliver on their vision and as of September 2021, 35 organisations had joined what has been branded the Cross-Council Assurance Service (CCAS) Framework. This includes numerous local authorities, the Greater London Authority, a health authority, and a housing association.

Crucially, the framework aims to transform assurance and advice on risk within public bodies through training, knowledge sharing and greater use of technology, which includes the use of data analytics and emerging technology like robotics. This is underpinned by an Assurance Academy, which is being designed to help improve member organisations’ internal audit functions through structured training and targeted projects across the areas of people, process and technology.

Regular training days and workshops focus on priority risk areas, such as cyber security and ESG (environmental, social and corporate governance). This enables local authorities to learn from our subject matter experts across the public and private sector, while also collaborating on the best way to implement changes within their organisations.

Each member organisation has access to a dedicated PwC team alongside specialist resources from across our firm, enabling us to work closely with each council’s people on solving their key problems. It also enables us to challenge member organisations to think differently about the risks they face and inspire new ways of working.

By working collaboratively, we are also helping councils to target areas identified for improvement, for example in key areas like the implementation of internal audit recommendations. This is helping us to establish common standards and benchmarks, so CCAS members can ensure they are operationally efficient, having maximum impact and are able to deliver the best possible services to local communities.

As the framework develops, we will embed more efficient processes and pilot new technologies. The end goal is to embed a real-time assurance approach in member organisations, so they can continue to build trust with and deliver excellent services for their local communities.

“In ever complex and turbulent times, the Barnet Framework has been a real asset in terms of the speed we can mobilise our services in support of clients that need specialist assurance and advisory help.”

Justin Martin, Risk Partner PwC

The impact

Our work with Barnet Council and other CCAS members continues to deliver value through upskilling, innovation and greater efficiency.

The CCAS framework creates economies of scale through cross-borough working, alignment of scopes and consistent use of resources, meaning councils can efficiently access support on critical areas of risk whenever required. And by creating a new network for knowledge sharing they are able to collaborate on common challenges, giving them greater confidence in their controls and risk management.

Our focus on driving change has enabled us to build a culture of innovation among member organisations. The insights we’ve gained are paving the way for more intelligence- and data-driven services to come. Our shared goal is to make councils and public bodies increasingly data-driven, enabling them to use technology to target risk more efficiently through more effective benchmarks and real-time assurance offerings.

By offering structured training and co-working between council and PwC teams, alongside our specialist support, we are ensuring a skills transfer that enables member organisations to build confidence in their own internal audit and assurance functions.

In addition, as part of the Vision for CCAS we are supporting the development of an ‘IA Pathway’ to enable councils to recruit and train their own future talent through a structured, cross-council programme.

All of this provides long-term benefits to councils and, subsequently, citizens, by helping them to be better prepared for the many changes and emerging threats affecting local government.

“18 months into the Barnet CCAS Framework I’m really pleased with the progress that has been made. I am really excited to continue to develop the programme, particularly the ‘IA Pathway’. We are looking to recruit and train a number of apprentice or trainee internal auditors and in doing so will be contributing towards the Social Value aspects of the Framework which are very important to me personally”

Caroline Glitre, Head of Internal Audit, London Borough of Barnet

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Justin Martin

Justin Martin

Devolved and Local Government Sector Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7212 4269