Training helps Newham go to the top of the class

Staff development has played a key role in helping the London Borough of
Newham improve the delivery of key services.

Dr Ita O’Donovan, formerly assistant chief executive at Newham responsible
for strategic HR, said the council decided it wanted to achieve best-in-class
services following the election of a new council leader.

To help it do this, the council took part in a three-year Best Value
programme, which involved a review of all the council’s services, aimed at
providing a 10 per cent improvement in services and a 5 per cent reduction in

In the first year alone, 28 services were reviewed and £3m was saved. This
money was invested in developing staff and engaging them with the council’s
commitment to drive up services.

More than 100 senior managers were given training to help them improve their
benchmarking skills and to encourage them to think more creatively.

O’Donovan said that middle managers are also being trained to help them
communicate to all staff the skills, abilities and behaviours valued by the

Front-line staff have been encouraged to achieve Institute of Customer
Service awards to help improve the council’s customer interface.

The council has also made a major effort to inform the public about what it
is trying to achieve by organising focus groups, public attitude surveys and
community forums.

Research has shown that the public perceives it as having made substantial
improvements across a wide range of services, including refuse collection,
street cleaning, libraries, nursery education and public transport.

Newham has also won the 2000 Local Government Chronicle Council of the Year

"It has been the partnership between the political will to transform
public services and council officers who are ready to deliver," said

By Ben Willmott

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