Almost a fifth of senior managers believe their council’s workforce will shrink by more than 35% in the next six years, LGC research reveals.
A survey of 267 council chief executives, directors and heads of service, carried out in partnership with Hay Group, revealed 17% expected the size of their authority’s directly employed workforce to fall by this level by 2020.
Only 4% believed the size of their workforce would be unchanged in 2020, and 3% thought it would increase.
The research also revealed a significant rise in the proportion of councils that intended to outsource more services in future, from 10% in 2013 to 51% this year.
Almost 7% said that in future their council would outsource all of its services or would become the “provider of last resort”, and a twentieth said they expected their council to outsource between 80% and 100% of its services by 2020.
However, 16% said their authority would bring more services in-house.
The proportion saying their council was moving towards a ‘commissioning council’ model rose from 33% in 2013 to 58% this year.
Respondents indicated an increased willingness to work in partnership with other authorities: eight in 10 said they would deliver services in future through closer partnerships with other authorities, compared with five in 10 last year.
The proportion who said they would work more closely with NHS bodies doubled from a third to two-thirds in the same time period.
Asked what they believed would be the most significant purpose of local government in future, the most popular answer chosen was “a leader of place, driving investment and stimulating economic regeneration”.
Respondents were also asked about their relationships with local enterprise partnerships. Just under one in five described this as a “real partnership” in which the LEP was “a core part of our strategy for growth”, and 37% said their LEP needed to be “closer aligned” with the work of the council.
Almost one in 10 (9.7%) said they had “little to do with” their LEP, and nearly 5% described their LEP as “a distraction”.
Graeme McDonald, director of Solace, told LGC: “Councils are slowly adapting to a new fiscal norm and a period of significant political flux.
“This survey demonstrates the colossal change that we are only a small part of the way through. Some councils are just managing to keep their heads above the water, but others are accelerating by creatively redefining their role and actively working in close partnership with others.
“Undoubtedly there are already far fewer people working in councils, and things are not getting any easier. The true test will be whether the sector is able to manage its own destiny.”