Yes I know we all hate acronyms, but Improvement and Efficiency South East doesn’t make a snappy headline, so my apologies.
iESE is one of the remaining Regional and Improvement Efficiency Partnerships. It has recently become a social enterprise which means, in broad terms, that it can act as a private company, but its profits are ploughed back into the sector rather than going to shareholders or partners. Although social enterprises are not new, this has to be good news for hard pressed local authorities. How come is the obvious question?
When the RIEPs were under the influence of CLG/LGA they were forced to cover an unreasonably large policy agenda, much of it being frankly useless. Resources were often wasted or spread so thinly that the impact in the areas that mattered was hard to discern. Free of these constraints, Improvement East and West Midlands have battled on and have now been able to focus on the areas that their local authorities demand.
Andrew Larner and the iESE team have gone one step better in becoming a social enterprise. They can start to earn revenue and trade which will benefit the authorities that they serve and mean that they are independent of central government funding. The RIEPs were a missed opportunity, but iESE is starting a new trend which deserves to succeed and perhaps the remaining RIEPs may soon follow.
There are lessons for those authorities looking to outsourcing as a solution to ‘cut their costs’. Rather than turning to the usual suspects, why not utilise the skills and knowledge of the people already serving their communities and encouraging them to become social enterprises too?