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Facing up to the 'second half' of the austerity decade

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The key transformation message for councils over the coming year is going to be: do things that are small now but which will have a huge impact in future.

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What I mean by this is that with the pressures of the current short- and medium-term financial situation shining in our eyes like undipped headlights, it can be difficult to see the road ahead.

But we will have to face up to the ‘second half’ of the austerity decade.

With this in mind, are there any little things we can do now that we’ll be really glad we did when we get there? The answer is yes.

Culture change takes a very long time.

If, for example, councils want to take a more commercial approach to their work, either entrepreneurially exploring possible revenue sources or empathising with the needs of local businesses, what small things can be put in place now to help this happen?

First steps such as secondments, speakers and business simulation competitions would certainly start to build that awareness.

The application of deep analytics and customer insight could also be a strong component of finding effective further savings in the future.

Then there are people in local authorities who would love to work on improving data quality if councils could let them.

So how can councils encourage a culture of use of evidence bases and data? Why not ask people to be explicit about this in their committee papers and reports?

It will gradually transform an organisation if the favourite question becomes ‘what is the research evidence relevant to this?’

Building relationships with less urgent stakeholders is another activity that has real potential to bring future benefits for councils.

Organisations inevitably turn inward when they have this much to do, and there will be plenty of stakeholder engagement around formal things such as health and wellbeing boards.

Finally, consider the people and constituencies that councils could easily lose touch with, and with whom they will regret a break in that trust relationship.

When local results through networks become urgent, as well as important, in a few years’ time, this could make all the difference.

Jonathan Flowers, local government market director, Capita plc; director, Veredus

Join the LGC Transformation Summit

LGC Transformation Summit is taking place on 7-8 November, 2013, and will again be held at Wyboston Lakes in Bedfordshire.

If you are involved in local government transformation and are interested in attending, please contact: jenny.vyas@emap.com

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