The Six Factors Changing Local Government Forever

May 24, 2019 | Digital Transformation | Local Government | Robotics

robots at town hall

Many Local Governments stand on the brink of bankruptcy after years of underfunding and budget cuts. Employees are overworked and underpaid, whilst Chief Executives are forced to make difficult decisions which affect the lives of their constituents. T-Impact have identified six key factors that are changing Local Government and senior staff need to adapt to in order to survive.

1 – Budget Cuts

Across the country, vital civil amenities close every week. Despite the perception created by an unsympathetic media, Council Services have been whittled down in a relentless push for austerity. Significant backlogs have developed internally as departments are unable to afford digital innovations.

Although staff are still as passionate as ever in frontline service, the numbers are decreasing every week. Cuts to wage bills are one of the most common ways to trim budgets, but this leads to further delays and unrest from unhappy citizens.

As a CEO, has your council:

  • Closed essential public services due to budget issues?
  • Had to change development and innovation plans due to funding uncertainty?
  • Downsized staffing to reduce wage bills?
  • Evaluated if what value your staff can add if freed from administrative tasks?

2 – The Demand for Housing and Social Care

The increased life expectancy across the UK, as well as greater self-awareness for personal care, has created an unexpected challenge. The elderly are becoming one of the largest groups in local constituencies.

Although plans have been drafted to alleviate this, including the creation of more assisted living quarters, more adult-care staff training and increased levels of social housing, budget is still a critical issue. Chief executives are unable to sign off these plans because they cannot guarantee the availability of resources for this vital training.

CEOs, have you:

  • Created plans to deal with the increasingly aged population?
  • Ensured the elderly are aware of, and can access all public services easily?
  • Identified how you will increase productivity without scaling your workforce, to deal with the increased demand?

3 – The Increasing Expectations of Citizens

As society goes digital, public authorities now find themselves in a very different situation. Citizens expect their services to be available quickly, easily and tailored to their specific requirements. They are no longer happy to accept a 9 to 5 Town Hall operation.

They expect access to information, all day, every day – even complex data such as benefits and council tax. Councils that have not embraced widespread digital technologies will struggle with this demand, increasing stress for staff and taxpayers alike.

Have you and your senior leadership team:

  • Identified the services and data that your citizens need to access and when?
  • Explored how recent technologies, such as Robotics & AI, can help you meet these demands?
  • Streamlined processes to reduce the likelihood of backlogs?

4 – GDPR, Policy and Procedure Reforms

The magnitude of GDPR a year ago is still being felt by Local Councils. Processes have been evaluated at a root-and-branch level to ensure staff now comply and whilst this urgency is a welcome change, it does raise critical questions for the future.

The data held by Local Authorities, including Council Tax, Benefit and Address information is some of the most confidential details, and any breach would be catastrophic. Rather than trusting that old measures will suffice, Chief Information Officers and Chief Technology Officers need to foster a fluid and dynamic approach to data, overseen by Chief Executive Officers, to ensure information remains confidential.

As a CEO, does your Local Council:

  • Have a clear cyber security and data security policy that all staff are aware of?
  • Have a data controller and processing team to manage central data silos?
  • Ensure all staff are adequately trained to be GDPR-compliant?
  • Reviewed options for outsourcing work versus outsourcing labour?

5 – Devolution

The 2016 Devolution Act means that councils can now unify their authorities. Elected metro-mayors work alongside the senior leadership team to manage key decisions about local infrastructure.

Although this change should be welcomed as it helps councils focus on providing the services most important for their community, it does pose new challenges. Devolved councils need to allow their constituents to dictate council expenditure and decisions require clear, streamlined and coherent processes to make sure the right resolutions are found.

As a senior Council member, have you:

  • Spoken to other local authorities about internal integration to manager key local issues.
  • Held open forums and debates with your taxpayers to discover where they would like to see council funds spent.

Considered how technology could help you deal with some of the devolution driven changes, without making expensive and time-consuming changes to your council IT systems?

6 – Technological Changes

Councils have often spoken about the need to digitally transform, but very few have undertaken a broad-based transformation. Lack of funding, time and resources are all legitimate challenges, but transformation is needed to meet the increasing taxpayers demands.

Every industry is embracing digital changes and although the prospect may seem daunting, local authorities need to commit the necessary budgets and embrace technology, or else they risk failing completely.

As CEO, have you:

  • Explored digitalising key services for taxpayers?
  • Investigated how other councils are already using robotics and artificial intelligence and what benefits they have unlocked?
  • Challenged your existing IT investment plans to determine how modern technology could help you achieve more with less?
  • Planned to update your council’s legacy system to reduce associated costs.

Final Thoughts

Although Local Government is in a difficult position, none of the challenges are insurmountable. In our subsequent articles, we’ll be exploring each key issue in detail and considering how councils can react to these to turn problems into opportunities.

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