The Local Authority Landscape

The key issues & challenges facing local authorities are complex and range from addressing national targets for the performance of schools to the issues involved in high value PFI projects.
Local Authorities are faced with higher expectations from local communities and from central government targets & initiatives (such as shared services) in line with the government's intention to provide direction at a national level.

Increasingly complex and diverse issues such as climate change and dealing with social exclusion further complicate the issues faced. The October 2006 White Paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities, aims to empower local authorities to more closely meet the needs of and be accountable to their communities. Whilst a reduction in the number of national targets from the current 1,200 will ease the regulatory burden there will be increased pressure to re-direct resources to front line services.

The White Paper aims to provide local communities with better information & more choice on services and more influence over how they are provided. Local authorities will therefore be faced with the ongoing challenges of ensuring value for money in services, which will need to be met by from ongoing innovation & improvements in the delivery and cost effectiveness of services as well as in designing new services. Within the context of tighter budgets, rapidly changing technologies, the drive towards shared services in finance, HR & payroll and new legislation (e.g. the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 making it incumbent on local authorities to assist businesses to maintain continuity in the event of disruption) the challenges remain complex.

Local authorities need to save money and look for ways to improve services and revenue by delivering efficiency gains through more effective procurement, improvements in the use of technology and improvements in business processes more generally.

Local authorities must re-engineer business processes to improve service delivery and efficiency. Reducing costs and improving services by outsourcing functions such as IT support and management may be a key goal but the real savings and benefits must be addressed at the outset of change projects.

Project managing shared service projects across several authorities including designing the processes and information flows, specifying IT solutions and project managing changeover are big goals requiring significant planning and design if they are to be successful.

C. Livingstone
29 July 2009