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Local governments must adapt technology approach because of cuts

Recent research has revealed that local government and social housing directors and managers believe that they will be forced to adapt this year as efficiency cuts go even deeper.

Specialist systems and business process services provider Civica (opens in new tab) surveyed 63 local government and housing association executives at its annual conference in January.

Participants explained that unless the spending gap is addressed, many services such as libraries, adult social care and road repairs will suffer.

At the heart of the changes that local authorities and similar organisations will need to make is the adoption of modern technologies and digital.

According to Civica’s research, 60 per cent of these organisations have made progress with the adoption of cloud-based software and 75 per cent have made some headway towards integrated online services.

The study indicates that many councils and housing associations have moved beyond a statement of intent to transform and are beginning to make the required changes.

Some 54 per cent of participants believe cloud-based applications and service will shape council services of 2025, while 58 per cent predict local authorities will embrace multi-channel payments more widely.

Meanwhile, 40 per cent imagine the Internet of Things (IoT) will play a big role over the next decade.

“There are some great examples of progressive authorities which are using technology to transform how they deliver services for their customers,” claimed Paul Bradbury, Civica’s group business development director.

“Malvern Hills, Worcester City and Wychavon councils formed a ground-breaking shared service in South Worcestershire to deliver revenues and benefits service, saving £3 million in the process.

“This is just one example of the opportunities local authorities have to undertake a root and branch review of their operations and secure their future as next generation councils,” he added.

24N caught up with Paul Bradbury to learn more about the way which issues raised in this recent study will affect local government and what local government can do to combat this.

According to Bradbury, while it is exceptionally important that councils and authorities adopt new ways of working and embrace digital, the biggest challenge and most important step to take is a change in culture and ways of working.

Without this, it is difficult to adapt to the pressures that come from budget cuts and offering services without compromising quality.

Bradbury also explained that it is important to ensure that when offering digital services to citizens, you do not exclude anyone who cannot use those services.

He praised organisations which offer alternatives to the digital service offered and those which have developed schemes to provide the necessary skills and tools required to use digital services effectively.

The Civica research indicates that the majority of local government and social housing associations plan to partner with more strategic private sector suppliers, while 61 per cent envisage a future characterised by widespread self-service for citizens.

Furthermore, 29 per cent of respondents expect to become more commercially savvy and intend to raise new income through more feeds and charges this year.

However, many organisations (47 per cent) are wary of making any large transformative changes in the run-up to the General Election.

This report builds upon research published by Civica earlier this year which thoroughly examined what local authorities might look like in ten years (opens in new tab).