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Alternative delivery models are not a quick fix

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The subject of alternative delivery models (ADMs) has been one of the most popular topics of discussion during our meetings with local councils this year.

The models are seen as a more flexible way to control costs, build sustainable income growth, refocus, protect and even improve local services by involving local people in new and engaging ways.

Our research suggests that three quarters of councils (76%) regard ADMs as a key part of their service delivery strategy. However, there is a noticeable difference between the attitudes of metropolitan authorities, where only 60% embrace ADMs, and other types of council such as other unitary authorities, where nearly 9 in 10 (89%) are using them.

ADMs take many forms, from co-operatives and arm’s-length trading companies, to joint ventures, social enterprises, or mutuals. While we have seen successful models become the catalyst for growth and improved service quality, councils considering their use in 2016 should remember one vital consideration: preparation is key. The creation of an ADM demands that a clear commercial strategy is developed, based on a genuinely robust understanding of local market conditions, operating costs and target clients’ likely buying behaviour.

One of the great examples from our work across the UK is in Flintshire. Here we are pursuing an ambitious programme to consider the development of ADMs across a broad range of services, including facilities management and schools traded services. Our focus in the early stages of this was on building a clear, shared understanding of the principles which underpin ADM development in the Flintshire context irrespective of the delivery model chosen: what are our values, and what are the wider social outcomes we want to promote in the way we deliver our business?

These early stage preparations are vital before progressing through feasibility and business planning to determine if and what form of alternative delivery model may best deliver the agreed principles. Building strong, positive relationships and managing expectations from the start is key, so make sure you engage all stakeholders and share the rationale to support the new venture.  

So in planning for next year, be aware that ADMs are not a quick-fix solution. Councils that allow plenty of time to lay the foundations for a strong, sustainable model, have the best chances of reaping the biggest rewards.

Ben Spinks, local government market director, Capita

Column sponsored and supplied by Capita

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