Paul Bradbury, Group business development director at Civica, shares his reflections on the future of delivery in public services leading up to 2025
Local government is well aware that the transformation to meet “new” digital world demands is key. It’s an issue we’ve explored in depth in Civica’s ‘Changing Landscape’ series of reports. And the world is moving fast. Devolution, mergers, commercialisation, shared services, shifting services online and delivering a digital experience for the masses are all affecting the way public services are run today.
Civica brought together former members of the SOLACE Springboard programme to discuss the issues and trends that will affect the way local authorities operate in the lead up to 2025 and beyond. As the industry’s future leaders, understanding their expectations and insights for the future is vital to lifting the lid on what we can expect in the years to come.
The central theme of the discussion focused on what the leaders of today need to do now to enable a successful authority in 2025. The group agreed that two issues needed to be prioritised – broadening the role of the local authority from a community guardian to a commissioner of services and the retention of employee skills and resources, alongside key partnerships.
An interesting point raised in the discussion was the need for a shift from citizens being reliant on local authorities towards an environment where people take responsibility for their own well-being. This will require local authority leaders to move away from a one size fits all approach and implement new strategies that are bespoke to their local communities, such as self-service solutions tailored to individual authority needs. All agreed that to achieve this, there are four key areas that must be addressed.
Residents continue to feel disenfranchised with local government, leaving authorities locked in a constant battle to shift public opinion. To do so effectively, local authorities need to better inform citizens and ensure the entire community is aware of what changes will be made – and importantly, why.
Citizens don’t understand budget cuts – they do not realise that investment is being made to commercialise services and realise efficiencies to plug funding gaps. Malcolm Bennie, Strategic Lead for Communications, Culture and Communities at West Dunbartonshire Council, summed up the sentiment perfectly by stating that residents: “feel that things are done to them rather than with them”.
Key to addressing this will be keeping citizens informed on the steps and measures each local authority is making to benefit them. All agreed that with community support, changes can be implemented more quickly and successfully, and authorities can become more agile.
Today’s citizens are demanding a faster, data driven and more accurate service from local authorities. To deliver against these expectations, authorities need to be at the forefront of technology and predictive analytics, using the latest techniques to not just improve their understanding of citizens but also help them to live their lives better. To realise this potential, the leaders of today need to address widespread infrastructure and data quality issues. Only then can new technology and data analytics be deployed to help improve the lives of the community going forward.
For example, data mining techniques need to be deployed to better understand residents, helping authorities to realise further efficiencies and help ensure targeted interventions are successful.
To meet growing financial and service pressures, changes need to be made in terms of internal company culture. As Sanjay Mackintosh, Head of Strategic Commissioning at Haringey Council, said: “The organisation of 2025, which is likely to be much smaller than it is now, needs to have everybody at every level taking some degree of risk in how they operate.”
The Forum agreed that today’s leaders need to foster an environment that encourages risk taking. If there is an acceptance that there will be failures along the way – with a process in place to deal with those failures and to learn from them – ultimately the pace of change and delivery of improvements will accelerate.
Crucially, local authority employees must also have the skills to take responsibility and the confidence to positively engage with residents, businesses and customers. For collaboration with citizens to work, authorities need the right people, with the right skills and network to establish better engagement across the entire landscape.
Create effective partnerships
Authorities need to break down organisational barriers across departments and work together collectively. And this collaboration needs to start internally. To realise significant economies of scale, local authorities need to become information and knowledge partners as well as joint commissioners.
Outside of this, the Forum participants agreed that collaboration with third parties, including those in the private sector, will also be crucial to meeting citizen needs. The priority has to be collaboration which will not only help to improve services but also support long-term efficiencies.
With so much change to come – alongside continued uncertainty – 2018 will no doubt be challenging, but the years ahead pose an exciting opportunity to radically re-think the way organisations operate.
Group business development director
Tel: +44 (0)113 244 1404