By engaging with the public and providing visibility of the local services and amenities available, local authorities can get residents more involved and urge them to take greater responsibility for their environment and local services effectively and efficiently.
The need to drive cashable efficiencies in the sector has never been more critical to reduce the UK’s borrowing and debt; it is therefore imperative that local authorities implement methods that enable them to do more with less whilst delivering the same high level of services to the public.
Whilst cash savings are paramount, policies such as the ‘Big Society’ also dictate an underlying need for the public to feel more empowered and play a significant role in the way their local areas are managed and maintained. Nonetheless, local authorities can use this to their advantage. By engaging with the public and providing visibility of the local services and amenities available, local authorities can get residents more involved and urge them to take greater responsibility for their environment and local services. This will inevitably assist councils in doing more with less. The question is how do they do this effectively and efficiently?
Offer the public web self-service
With the advance of technology and the internet, there are far more opportunities available for local authorities to communicate their services to citizens efficiently and make it easier for them to get involved and become more aware of what’s happening in their local area. Through the use of GIS technology and digital channels, a number of councils throughout the UK can now offer citizens location based services, such as self-service web mapping apps which enable them to locate nearby amenities via online interactive maps.
Southwark LBC, for example, has been using web mapping technology to enable citizens to interact with online environments and activate overlays on top of a detailed map of the town. By clicking on individual items such as schools, recycling sites or controlled parking zones, citizens can now access a wealth of information about their local environment.
Get the public involved
As well as enhancing the mapping services provided to citizens, location based services also enable citizens to report council assets in need of maintenance, such as faulty streetlights and any cases of street vandalism. For example, North Lanarkshire Council’s Graffiti Service team has been using an asset management solution to make it easier for the public to report faulty assets, which in turn allows street scene incidents, such as graffiti, to be reported and resolved quickly and efficiently. So far the council has achieved significant cost efficiencies in reducing time and manpower to administer and upload the mapping data in its contact centres, helping them to travel to the incidents more quickly.
Lincolnshire County Council has also been using similar software, which is integrated with its existing SAP CRM database. This integration streamlines and expedites all highways maintenance processes, identifying defects at the first point of contact with the public and automatically sending them to the offsite team to repair. This prevents the team from spending unnecessary time and money determining the exact location of faults and reduces the backlog of reports and faults lodged with the call centre.
Integrate departmental systems and processes
There are also additional cash efficiencies to be achieved from system integration. In the past, unconnected islands of IT have grown independently within council departments, with systems often replicating information and functionality. As technology has developed, it has become much easier to run departmental applications from a single core software platform, rather than run multiple niche platforms. Integrating location based systems across multiple departments can provide significant economies of scale and drastically reduce hardware and software support costs.
With over 30 geographically dispersed maintenance locations and over 20 systems and disparate business processes for managing maintenance activity, Aberdeenshire Council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Service has increased shared efficiencies and realised significant cost savings by using software to collate data on multiple assets, from multiple departments, on one integrated asset management system. This has significantly reduced its costs in licensing and support as well as reduced the need for manual analysis of data.
Optimise shared service models and outsourcing
Lastly, outsourcing and sharing IT systems between councils and third parties can also reduce costs significantly. Southampton City Council, for example, previously used an on-premise application to manage its highways maintenance programs. It has now seen significant benefits from outsourcing to Balfour Betty who takes full responsibility for running a hosted version of the software. So too has Birmingham City Council, who outsourced its Highways Maintenance and Management Service project to public services provider Amey. Within a month of Amey transitioning to a hosted services model to manage Birmingham City Council’s highways network and assets, the company saw significant benefits impacting its bottom line, saving over £800K in the first year by removing both the need to purchase traditional licences and to invest in their own technology infrastructure.
In challenging times such as these, when there is an ongoing pressure on the public sector to cut costs, there are great savings to be achieved by streamlining business processes and managing multiple asset areas and departments through a single integrated asset management platform. Not only does this reduce the cost of owning and running multiple IT systems but it also provides the authority with a single view of the activity, condition, cost and future requirements for Infrastructure needs into the future. Councils can expect payback on investment within 2-3 years with some having achieved cashable savings of £1m-£2m over five years. Local authorities need to examine closely the way in which they’re organised and how resources are used across departments. It may even accelerate the adoption of new models of working, which reduce both costs and risk levels in the provision of services, while providing better control and management over these services.
Steve Deaville, Managing Director, UK and ROI, Pitney Bowes Software