LGC Efficiency Supplement - March 2012
Read LGC’s regular supplement on efficiency.
At one level it barely feels like yesterday since the 2010 spending review, even though it has now been part of the public sector landscape for some 18 months.
The post-spending review world has taken some getting used to and, as we have highlighted in LGC on many occasions, local authorities by and large have been rising valiantly and creatively to the challenges it has posed.
Yet the central theme of this supplement, it is possible to argue, is not the spending review, even though the government’s efficiency and localism agendas are still very much acting as the primary catalyst for the innovation, collaboration and transformation running through our chapters.
The challenge for local authorities then is going to be that once you’ve partnered, squeezed, trimmed, restructured, shared and collaborated, what’s next?
No, the key topic - and the key question being whispered increasingly loudly within council chambers - is “what next?”. Local authorities have done extremely well in driving through change and efficiency, and they should be applauded for that and their efforts recognised.
But, just as efficiency was not invented for local government by the coalition - indeed most councils were running pretty tight ships before 2010, whatever the ‘spin’ to the contrary - so there is little sign that the austerity agenda is going to end with the completion of the current spending review cycle.
The challenge for local authorities then, as Northampton CC’s Paul Blantern has highlighted on, is going to be that once you’ve partnered, squeezed, trimmed, restructured, shared and collaborated - once you’ve done all the obvious things - yet ever-tighter efficiencies are still being demanded of you, what’s next?
It may be that even more difficult decisions are going to need to be made, and still more imaginative thinking required, perhaps around previously sacrosanct areas such as whether demand for council services can be reduced, redirected or just managed differently.
Similarly, as Warwickshire CC’s David Carter has argued, it is becoming clear that the long-term model - and challenge - will not be how to do more with less but how to do less with less, yet still get the most value from resources.
In short, the sector may be facing not just a financial ‘lost decade’ but - yes, I know this was Trotsky’s favourite concept - an era of permanent revolution.
Revolutions, we all know, can be either destructive or constructive (or occasionally both). Which this will turn out to be, well, that’s a debate for another time.
Nic Paton, supplement editor
- Local authorities are becoming experts at using their resources in the most effective way. It may be that managing demand is the logical next step, argues MARK SMULIAN p6
- We asked local government executives what plans they have for introducing efficiencies, and how they intend to implement such a radical transformation in such a short period of time. ALEX BLYTH gives the findings from our survey p8
- Finance might be a back-office function, but cutting back here could be a false economy. SAJIDA BIJLE writes how investment in a new financial system saved her council money p12
- CASE STUDY: An efficient budgetary system forms the foundation on which all other efficiencies are built on, says CHARLOTTE GODDARD p14
- There’s only so much salami-slicing a local authority can do in the name of efficiency, says DAVID CARTER. Sooner or later a council has to consider doing things differently p16
- CASE STUDY: A north-west council’s partnership with the private sector has helped it meet its efficiency challenge. NIC PATON explains how p18
- Partnerships are playing an increasingly important role in service delivery. All the more reason to make sure the initial contract suits everyone, says JOHN NICHOLSON p20
- CASE STUDY: A growing number of councils are using standard contract templates that have been designed with them in mind, says JOE LEPPER p22
- When four councils created an arm’s-length management organisation to run their housing stock its progress was eagerly watched. VELIA COFFEY reports on its first year p24
- CASE STUDY: Vastly different housing projects are benefiting from creative ways of providing affordable homes, says ANNE GULLAND p26
Expert Opinions in the Supplement Include:
Comment - The challenges won’t suddenly stop in 2014 p8
Darra Singh, Ernst & Young
Comment - Spreadsheets alone are just not enough p12
Dean Dickinson, managing director - public sector and enterprise division, Advanced Business Solutions
Comment - There are many ways to define ‘efficiency’ p16
Rainer Majcen, managing director, arvato
Comment - An off-the-peg contract can do the business p20
Nelson Ogunshakin, chief executive, Association for Consultancy and Engineering