“Doing more for less” has become something of a cliché when it comes to talking about local government. But unfortunately, as with most clichés, it’s inherently true – mounting pressure from central government to improve efficiency, yet cut costs on a local level is significant. This means that local government organisations must find places to streamline and realise efficiencies that they’ve possibly never explored before, and find more and more innovative ways to engage with their citizens and deliver exceptional service.
With that in mind, here are 4 arising trends and themes in innovation and local government that you should be well versed in as we enter 2020.
Multi-channel citizen engagement
It’s becoming increasingly vital that local government organisations and services go to meet
citizens on their own terms. Gone are the days where people are willing to accept that they have to physically visit their local council office, or spend minutes on hold. Getting high levels of citizen engagement in 2020 will require you to go and meet your citizens where they want to be met. 2020 will see local government organisations embrace more cutting-edge technologies including smart speakers and virtual assistants, AI-driven chatbots and mixed reality (MR) in order to deliver a richer service across multiple channels and media. Adopting this multi-channel approach to citizen engagement will enable local government organisations and services to be more available, more accessible and in some ways more transparent than ever. Transparency becomes particularly important when you consider what we’re going to identify as the next “trend” in local government innovation.
Not so much a trend, as a seemingly inevitable conclusion and necessity. Local government organisations are being driven towards being more self-sufficient and cost-effective, due to the central government’s push to remove Revenue Support Grants (RSGs) almost completely by 2020. The pressure is on to close funding gaps and rebalance budgets, all while delivering unfaltering service. A topic very much at the centre of the discussion around commercialisation is culture. In the coming years, local authorities will be looking to shift mindsets within their organisations and transition staff into a different financial environment – one which is more commercial. Organisations will need to be more agile, and more streamlined in order to operate effectively in a commercial environment. This will undoubtedly bring a greater focus on people, processes and technology – and how resources can be effectively used to drive the highest possible value.
This should most definitely be a priority and on-going concern now, but in the next few years we are going to see local government organisations take a more focused and dynamic approach to cyber security than ever before. As more and more services become digitalised and integrated, this opens up local authorities to more and more vulnerabilities and risks. This will require organisations to take a more adaptive approach – one that takes into account the agile and far-reaching nature of digital services. It’s not just about the technology, it’s about adopting a mindset that there will never be a “perfect” security solution, and cybersecurity needs to be regularly and stringently stress-tested across the organisation and its integrations to ensure it is operating at maximum effectiveness.
Increased focus on sustainability
In a similar vein to commercialisation, this is not so much a trend as another inevitable necessity. The threat of climate change is very real, and with that comes very real pressure from all corners – citizens, consumers, investors and policymakers to take action in a meaningful way. The issue of climate change and sustainability obviously has global impact and global focus. The UN has set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for member nations for 2030 – but to make sure these are met, there needs to be a localised focus too. Some sustainability efforts dovetail nicely into commercialisation strategies too – for example consolidating services and premises might could help to limit both the economic and environmental impact of certain departments. There are already examples of local authorities taking the initiative and putting in place measures and programmes – such as Sheffield City Council offering free insulation in private housing and Bristol City Council teaming up with Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust to utilise low-emission and electric cars for its community health teams. 2020 will no doubt see more local government organisations and partnerships follow suit.
To learn more about trends, challenges and transformational journeys in local government, register for the Local Government Partnership Network, 9th-10th June 2020 at Oulton Hall, Leeds. Over two days at a fantastic four-star venue, you’ll hear from experts in the field of innovation and transformation in local government about the real challenges they face everyday in their organisations, and the strategies and technologies they have put in place to achieve their objectives.