News article

Posted by Gary Flood PM | on Mon, 20/02/2012 - 11:49  1033

Local gov't: yes, shared services, but cuts will still harm services

Local government and social housing organisations are taking innovative measures to address severe budget constraints - but many still fear that local services will be undermined by budget constraints, according to new research sponsored by supplier Civica.
It polled 100 local government and social housing service directors and IT managers at its annual conference last month, finding high acceptance of involvement in shared service strategies – at 89% agreed, up from 52% in the equivalent 2011 survey and 24% in the 2010 version.
Delegates said making required cost savings is the top priority for public sector managers. Asked for their top three challenges for 2012, 54% said delivering the required cost efficiencies, 35% said improving service delivery and 26% said maintaining services within budgets.
The clear majority of respondents (84%) said they were fully or largely on track to hit austerity targets with only 14% stating that they were struggling. However, this budget focus could come at a particularly high cost with nearly three-quarters (71%) saying the current budget clampdown had seriously or partly affected services. Only 24% said this had had no effect.   
Questioned on how they will address service challenges in 2012, delegates advocated a strong focus on selecting the appropriate systems to maintain and improve service delivery. Further, over a third (38%) said they would share services but nearly as many (30%) said they would set up new service delivery models or rethink services in conjunction with private sector partners. This new thinking contrasted with the fifth of delegates (20%) that want to make in-house service improvements.
Bill Loughrey, managing director of the supplier’s local government and regulated markets business, said: “As we all know, public services are under pressure to make cost savings as never before. Having made good progress already in service delivery and efficiency, local authorities and their partners are leading the way in the search for new and innovative approaches to deal with acute financial and service pressures.

“This explains the greater acceptance of changes to the way they operate through more flexible service models, including shared working and specialist outsourcing arrangements, that can help maintain and improve services while making the necessary savings.”