WEST Devon Borough and South Hams District Councils have been awarded the title of ‘Council of the Year’ at the ‘Improvement and Efficiency Social Enterprise’ (iESE) awards.

They have also been given a gold award for ‘transforming through people’, for recent changes they have made to the way they work.

iESE is a consultancy which specialises in helping the public sector meet the challenges they currently face. The awards recognise councils which have risen to those challenges.

To come first in both awards provides West Devon and South Hams with national recognition for the dedication and effort they have shown towards a transformation programme that has completely changed how they do their work. On top of this the councils were also given a certificate of excellence for ‘Working Together’, for their work with the region-wide Better Business for All Partnership.

Leader of West Devon Borough Council Cllr Philip Sanders said: “I am absolutely thrilled that we have won these awards. And I would like to say a big thank you to all the staff and customers who have persevered with us during our time of change.

“Our transformation has been tough for everyone, we knew we had to try and close a joint funding gap of £4.7-million, and cutting services simply wasn’t an option. So instead we set about redesigning how we work and focusing our organisation around the needs of the customer.”

South Hams and West Devon, were pioneering in 2007 when they agreed to share a chief executive, the first councils in the country to do so.

Now the councils have designed a new model for local government that breaks the old council department-focused offices and offers customers more options on interacting with their council.

In addition to this, the number of staff across both councils has been reduced by 30% and those who remain have been employed based on a set of behaviours, to ensure they are more customer-focused.

Executive director of strategy and commissioning and head of paid service Steve Jorden said: “The new software that we have brought in, really is the backbone to our transformation. It means that for the first time customers can report something to us or request a service from us through their own dedicated account on our website, and they can then track the progress of that request.”

The iESE awards recognise the changes that both councils have made in the last two years and with a potential joint saving of £5-million from the transformation programme, both have achieved their aim of not cutting front line services.