Looking back over the past few years, local government is now a very different place. In a climate of austerity measures and the uncertainty of welfare reform, local authorities have made admirable strides to reduce their costs while delivering productive services to residents.
For many, much of the ‘low hanging fruit’ of savings will now have been achieved in the initial wave of the spending review. But austerity measures are not going away. This will be an issue for councils for years to come, a theme echoed by respondents of our LGC readers’ survey. While the need to sustain existing savings is a given, local authorities may now consider reviewing what services will look like in the future to achieve long-term efficiencies and increased productivity.
At the heart of this rethinking will be the need for effective middle office processes. Making savings within the middle office, through reshaping business administration functions, is going to be an inevitable next step to achieve the next generation of efficiencies.
Business administration is a comparatively untouched area for business process re-engineering and technological innovation. But, especially in areas such as adult social care and children’s services, where budgets and resources can be stretched, it is common for social workers to be overloaded with administration tasks.
Local authorities are beginning to realise the scope of delivering transformation in this area, and the potential benefits of creating a more efficient business administration service than they currently operate through the support of the private sector. Our LGC reader survey certainly paints a picture of a market open to the prospect of sharing responsibility in this arena.
By reshaping administration services, consolidating common processes and using technology to enhance service delivery and accessibility, local authorities can realise significant financial savings, while increasing productivity and freeing resources for the provision of vital frontline services – in turn giving the customer a better experience.
Within adult social care and children’s services, for example, it means social workers can focus on frontline delivery rather than spending time on administration that could be delegated elsewhere.
But it need not stop there. Local authorities should not be daunted by the prospect of rethinking business administration service delivery at every level of their organisation, across multiple council support services.
It often costs much less than feared, the challenges can be managed and the results can be significant: long-term financial savings, increased productivity and improved services to vulnerable citizens. Most definitely a ripe alternative to cutting frontline services.
Efficient admin can relieve the burden