Devolution appears to be here to stay and local government is set to retain £26bn in business rates; it’s fair to say that partnerships and the right approach to leadership could make the crucial difference in driving efficiencies.
As we shift towards a very different system of governance by 2020, the way public services operate will change. There needs to be more of a focus on developing relationships with other partners, including different agencies, the third sector and the private sector. The public and private sectors are very different but their combined expertise has the potential to revolutionise local government.
I recently attended an event featuring leading thinkers in local government to discuss funding five years from now. There was a consensus that authorities needed to evolve a commercial outlook to gain more financial autonomy, no doubt accelerated by devolution and retention of business rates.
Ideas include investing more in property as capital assets, helping councils share human capital (to plug gaps in teams if people are absent and workloads escalate) and increased charging for services that are beyond councils’ statutory responsibilities, such as regular green bin collections. These were as well as an array of unrelated, value-added services in the community, for which people would pay given the trust they place in their authority.
However, while opportunities are there for the taking, embarking on a new financial model may be too great a leap without the commercial nous of the private sector. There is power in partnership and many opportunities for the public and private sectors to complement each other.
According to Alexander Stevenson, author of The Public Sector, it’s useful to think in terms of twins. In his view, in addition to public service ethos and delivery, the public sector twin has greater skills in commissioning, negotiation, persuasion, handling complex decisions and crisis management. The private sector twin has greater flexibility and is more adept at making decisions quickly and achieving efficient delivery and growth.
Partnership needs to be the foundation stone for a changing state, which we bring these strengths together, work with committed partners invested in the outcome, and develop an ecosystem in which skills are pooled and benefits are shared.
Paul Bradbury, group business development director, Civica
Column sponsored and supplied by Civica
More importantly, we could have local infrastructure that will stand the test of time, deliver quality services at the point of need, while conforming to the best in corporate governance practices during a time of significant fiscal constraint.