Business Continuity from Glen Abbot

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Local Authority Case Study

Local Authority - BC Planning

The single biggest challenge in implementing Business Continuity Plans for a local authority is delivering robust plans that offer adequate protection to ensure service continuity on a very tight budget, as any local authority rightly wishes to maximise available budget to spend on delivery of public services.

Secondly, the critical processes identified are extremely diverse. A few examples of the processes identified with our local authority client included:

  • Child protection and residential care
  • Call handling
  • Revenue protection
  • Care call, sheltered housing, home help and other services for the elderly
  • Outbreak control of diseases
  • Burials and cemeteries administration
  • District courts
  • Emergency housing repairs

Essential services for elderly peopleFrom the start, priority was given to maintaining services for our client's most vulnerable service users, such as ensuring protection for "at risk" children; essential services for elderly people and responding to housing emergencies - when a water tank bursts or a roof collapses, families need immediate help.

Whilst it is obvious that burials are a critical process, the more obscure cemeteries administration - which involves recording the location of deceased individuals' graves - is equally important.

Financially, maintaining cashflow is critical for a council in order to sustain delivery of its services in the long-term, and failing to manage transactions could lose revenue income and interest. However, equally important to service delivery is maintaining social services' capability to make small emergency payments to people in need - usually young mothers.

Due to the diversity of services provided by our client, building loss was a major risk factor. However, the costs of maintaining fully-equipped, remote recovery centres was not considered to be best use of public funds.

Staffing levels were examined and plans put in place to specify how services could be maintained with a significant loss of staff - such as during a flu pandemic or industrial action. This involved drawing up skills matrices and examining the possibility of emergency redeployment, based on skills and knowledge. This was a particular challenge in social services due to the requirement for disclosure checks.

Departmental Recovery Plans were developed according to function, rather than location, so a building with three or four functions had three or four plans. In total 88 DRPs were developed.

Innovative Solutions

With one of our local authority clients the issue of building loss was dealt with through the simple, but effective, solution of twinning each council building with another. In the event of an incident, staff from the building affected would be relocated to their twinned building, and accommodated by sending non-critical staff home.

Twinned buildings are far enough away from each other to reduce the likelihood of both suffering simultaneous impact from an incident, yet close enough to make travelling easy for employees. A further measure to ensure the smooth implementation of recovery plans was the appointment of Building Managers at each location, who would take charge of importing and deporting staff and ensuring that incoming employees go to their pre-allocated work station. An additional contingency building has been identified to provide extra flexibility to the twinning scheme.

Another low cost innovative solution was the development of reciprocal arrangements with neighbouring local authorities to share critical resources in the event of an incident. Examples include salt supplies for road gritting in winter, or Environmental Health resources to help with disease containment.

In addition, the results of service user surveys, undertaken on an on-going basis by our client were also used to inform the identification of the critical processes.