In this post Helia Phoenix from the National Assembly for Wales looks back over the ‘March Madness’ session at GovCamp Cymru. This session was run by Jo Carter from the Satori Lab, who has also blogged about the topic.
If you work in a busy, high-tempo team like I do, you’re often very busy ‘doing the job’. Budgeting for the year ahead should be one of the main focuses of your work, and you should revisit that plan throughout the year, making amendments to it as you go along. But some people don’t manage it as well as they might be able to. The session was attended by individuals from local authorities and housing associations, and we discussed how money is extremely tight in the public sector at the moment, so it’s more important than ever to be pragmatic with your budgeting. The group shared some good practice examples of how you could manage your budget.
There were two great examples that I came away with; one very simple, that anyone could achieve in their own team, and one a lot more elaborate that would require the support of your senior management.
1 – the simple solution. This came from Torfaen Council. Throughout the course of the year, this team operate by spending on business critical things, but they’ll also make a list of things they’d do if they come in with any cash at the end of the year (so upgrading their technology, perhaps buying new software, etc). Then, in February, if they find themselves with an underspend, they can use the money in that way. So they still fit into the ‘March Madness’ spending pattern, but they do it in a structured way that ensures they are using their money in the best way they can.
2 – the complex solution. Monmouthshire Council has a central pot of money that is used as an innovation fund. Departments that manage to save money and have an underspend at the end of the year put the money into that pot. Half is used for paying off debts, but the other half is made available for departments to pitch for. They put in ideas of projects that they wanted to run, and senior management would decide how the money was given out for those projects. This rewarded departments for good financial management, and also permitted them some freedom to try different ways of delivering their services that they might not otherwise have been able to try.
You might not be likely to persuade anyone in your organisation to do Solution 2, but Solution 1 is a really easy way of structuring spending so money is being used in the best possible way, and it’s really very easy to do. Anyone can do it.