Invest in tech to increase commercial revenue, LGA conference told

Councils shouldn’t underestimate the potential of investing in good technology as a way to deliver more commercialisation, a conference has heard.

Councils can bring in cash from commercialisation, but might need to invest in IT – Photo credit: Flickr, Austin Kirk

Speaking at a commercialisation workshop at the 2016 Local Government Association conference this week, Katherine Fairclough, deputy chief executive of Warrington Council, said her council’s technology had been a “frustration” during efforts to expand its commercial offering.

“The issue for us, and for every council, is that good business as usual relies on technology related to payments, collections, and so on,” she said. “That’s where I recognise we need a greater programming investment than we had.”

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She added that the council was now prioritising enhancing its platforms in the same way as it would for other large-scale investments.

“Don’t underestimate the invest-to-save opportunity in technology to deliver more commercialisation,” she said.

Meanwhile, another panellist at the workshop Stephen Hughes, interim director of resources at Brent Council in London, said that IT had the capacity to transform services “in lots of different ways”.

However, he said that, although it was better to improve IT, “you can do an awful lot even if yours is not the best”. Councils could still get a lot out of commercialisation by rethinking their approach to services, he said, even if their IT offering could be improved.

Hughes said that his council was using shared services as a route to commercialisation. He noted that Brent are running the IT for the London General Assembly and Lewisham, as well as running the registration and nationalisation for Barnet and were in discussions for doing the same with Harrow.

All the speakers at the event stressed that, although commercialisation had been driven by increased austerity, it was something that councils would be working on anyway.

Advice for councils on how to increase revenue in this way included exploiting their brand and public trust – which Hughes said was important when getting involved in commercial enterprises – and focusing on customer needs. 


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