Businesslink cuts staff budget in half

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Businesslink cuts staff budget in half

Controversial review to be done by January.

NSW shared services agency Businesslink has seen its workforce reduce by a quarter as a result of a Treasury-issued whole-of-government personnel expenditure cap.

Already this year staff at Businesslink have had to contend with a restructure, rumours of their dissolution and a behind the scenes review of agency operations.

Now, a whole-of-government workforce expenditure cap has meant its total staff costs for 2012-13 were $53.8 million, compared to $102.2 million the year before. 

Spend on contractors, which make up a sizable chunk of what Businesslink calls a “hybrid workforce”, was down an additional 32 percent, from $66.8 million to $44.8 million.

Introducing the 2012-13 report, managing director Albert Olley put the dramatic staff cuts down to the Labour Expense Cap applied across the NSW government in July 2012.

He claimed the reduction took place with “minimal change to service standards”.

The agency has borne the cuts while retaining its same schedule of customers, including all of the Family and Community Service (FACS) agencies, Juvenile Justice and the Office of State Revenue, among others.

Its revenue from these clients is down but only marginally compared with the dramatic expense reduction. The severe cost-cutting has turned its bottom line around from a $17.7 million loss in 2011-12 into a $19.5 million profit in 2012-13.

But total complaints are up to 258, from 197 in 2011-12. Satisfaction ratings have remained steady.

The organisation is also aware of a heightened level of scrutiny of its performance.

In July Family and Community Services minister Pru Goward confirmed a review was underway into the agency's future, ahead of a potential transition plan for its dissolution.

The agency's annual report has offered up the first firm completion date for the review, an expected date of January next year. It indicates that the terms of reference cover “FACS and its shared services requirements and Businesslink’s role in the provision of these services”.

The impact of ongoing uncertainty on staff has not been lost on Olley, who said in his introduction that “it is a significant tribute to the Businesslink staff that we were able to return all services to normal operating parameters and maintain focus and engagement throughout these difficulties”.

“The organisation was subject to an extended period of uncertainty regarding its future direction as reviews and media articles brought into question its value and longevity."

The organisation has not been immune from internal ructions either, which Olley conceded had been "damaging to our reputation".

iTnews understands Businesslink has struggled with the delivery of a virtual desktop to client agencies called My Virtual Office (MVO), which has suffered at least one serious outage.

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