Case Studies

These are a selection of our case studies below:-

Budget Challenges in Brent

The financial year starting in April 2011 was one of the hardest ever for English local government.  The annual budgets had to deliver 20% savings.  Big changes in service configuration and staffing arrangements were necessary, alongside high profile cuts in front-line delivery.

The London Borough of Brent (LBB) was no exception.  In late 2010 an existing Assistant Director, Sue Harper, was promoted, creating an urgent vacancy to shape and deliver the new budget.  Sarah Tanburn was appointed to cover the role during recruitment, which eventually took some eight months.The role had direct management responsibility for a diverse portfolio, ranging from managing the highways network, road crossing patrols, libraries, parks and sports.  She was a full member of the departmental team and took a lead on corporate projects too.

Sarah started in early January 2011 and was immediately responsible for finding savings of some £2m.  She successfully implemented major changes, reshaping the parks service, reconfiguring arts development and significant reductions in staff costs in highways.  The biggest challenge was the transformation of the libraries service.  This proved controversial, with both public relations and legal challenges. 

Sarah wrote a major series of reports and steered them through meetings of elected politicians and ultimately through the High Court process.  This relied on her thorough grasp of the law and relevant process, the services involved, and the facts and figures of consultation and service usage.  She also needed acute political understanding to support councillors through the budget process. A central part of the work was understanding the complex equalities issues in one of the most diverse areas in Britain.  Sarah did several comprehensive equality impact assessments, making them clear for councillors who must consider the issues when making decisions.  The High Court and Appeal Court recognised the quality of this important work when they upheld the Council's decisions.

Sue Harper, Sarah's client for this role, was very pleased with her work.  "We would have really struggled with delivering the 2011/12 budget without Sarah"' she said.  "She understood the organisation and the borough and what we needed.  Throughout this difficult time she kept strategic vision and was great at leading the staff."

After the interim role was finished, other departments retained Sarah for consultancy support in making and delivering difficult service changes.  She helped the Council reshape its nursery provision for preschool change, and prepare for a major overhaul of leisure services for adolescents.  Chief Executive, Gareth Daniel, commented "Sarah has been an invaluable resource for us.  She has brought gravitas, an enormous amount of knowledge and sheer hard work to the organisation,  yet through it all she has kept her sense of humour."


Kingston's Housing Challenges

The affordable housing sector in England is going through the biggest legislative and financial changes since the mid 1980's.  The Coalition government is changing benefit and subsidy rules dramatically.  Individual families must make different choices, while all landlords and developers must rethink their business model.  Policies also free up local authorities to rethink access to secure housing.In this context one London borough stands out.  The nuances of the subsidy system mean that for the first time in two decades Kingston upon Thames (RBK) can afford to invest in its 5000-strong housing stock and consider developing more homes.  The council needed a long, cool look at its housing department.  The corporate director, Roy Thompson, asked Sarah Tanburn to carry out a health check and see if the service ended reorganising to make it fit for purpose.

Read more: Kingston's Housing Challenges


Merton Council

Sarah went to Merton in September 2008, as interim Head of Sustainable Communities.  When the then director moved on, the Chief Executive asked her to take on the role for six months, while the Council made a permanent appointment.

As Director of Environment & Regeneration for six months, Sarah ran a department of over 750 staff, with a gross budget of some £50m, and responsibility for some of the most popular, and most overlooked, services in the borough.   Waste collection, parking enforcement, Merton's much loved parks,  and highways maintenance were among the many day to day services.

Read more: Merton Council


The Invest to Save Budget

The Invest to Save Budget (ISB) is the Treasury's grant programme, set up in the late 1990's to promote innovation with long term savings.  Sarah has been closely involved in three, widely disparate and successful ISB bids. Each of these pieces of work in themselves has been relatively small.  Collectively, they are a valuable track record in this complex bidding regime.  They also illustrate Sarah's ability to work across a wide range of topic areas with many different organisations, and to present highly technical information in an effective way.

Read more: The Invest to Save Budget


Thames Gateway

The largest regeneration area in Europe, the Thames Gateway straddles three Regional Development Agencies, which must work together to maximise the economic potential of the area.  In 2007, EEDA, the LDA and SEEDA therefore agreed to jointly produce an Economic Development Investment Plan, one section of which was to be devoted to creating a cultural milieu.  Sarah Tanburn Associates won the tender to produce the relevant document.

Read more: Thames Gateway


Southend-on-Sea Borough Council

Sarah was Interim Director of Enterprise, Tourism and Environment at this Essex Unitary from early November 2006 to mid- February 2007, while the Council made a permanent appointment.

This was one of four new strategic director roles, created by a large-scale restructuring in 2006, three of which had interim postholders.  The Chief Executive and Leader were determined that the interim managers were not only caretakers, but were themselves important parts of the changes the Council needed to make.

Read more: Southend-on-Sea Borough Council