How have the UK’s local authorities adapted to their new everyday?

Last year a global crisis changed our world. We all had to reinvent our routines overnight. 

The uptake of online council services has soared, from library services to live streaming of council meetings. 

Now it’s time to build on what we’ve already achieved. 

Instead of taking tactical decisions, local authorities have the opportunity to embed long-term digital change and empower citizens and colleagues for the long term. 

Reinventing the workplace

At the height of the pandemic, 82% of local authority workers were working from home. The sector embraced change remarkably quickly and streamlined processes as a result.

But as a report from the Local Government Association makes clear, attention is now turning to the debate about the future of the office and hybrid working. 

As the report says, the onus now is on “Looking at the arrangements, logistics and equipment that would support new ways of working.” 

That means making sure the right devices, online workspace, collaboration tools, performance management systems and social and learning technologies are in place. 

As a result, digital transformation has moved up the to-do list for every authority. 

In fact, our Global Data study of 37 local government engagements shows that 55% now rate it as their top business priority.

Rebuilding the economy

According to a local government survey carried out by PwC, before the pandemic, 87% of local government respondents said supporting economic and productivity growth was the primary purpose of their vision or strategy for their local areas. 

Since March 2020, however, it’s become clear that digital transformation can help make that vision a reality. Because it won’t just help local authorities survive the challenges of the pandemic. It will help them and their regions thrive. 

A recent study we commissioned from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) shows that Covid-driven digital change could transform the UK economy. And the public sector will be in the driving seat. 

Across the public sector, efficiencies and cost-savings from digital adoption will be reinvested in jobs, public infrastructure and innovation. 

The benefits to the whole UK economy could be as much as £75 billion by 2040 –potentially more.

Rebuilding the regions

There’s all to play for. Forward-looking local governments can seize disruption to start to prepare for economic recovery. 

A thought leadership piece from Arup suggests ten responses that local authorities can take to rebuild regions and cities. 

Some of the suggestions may be blue sky thinking (at least for now), such as drone delivery. But others are already happening. 

Supporting the working community, for instance – especially the unemployed and furloughed – by helping them gain skills for new jobs. 

Councils are already enabling access to knowledge online. 

During the first national lockdown, for example, Worcestershire Council had 250,000 visitors to its website in one month alone, with 50,000 downloading library e-books.

Reaping the efficiencies

Before the pandemic, a review by the Public Service Transformation Network and the think-tank Nesta found that the move to digital could unleash efficiencies saving up to £14.7bn for councils. 

And those efficiencies can be built in at every level, as a report from EY shows. To take one example, if the challenge is to integrate disparate IT infrastructure, then application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow two applications to talk to each other could be the solution. 

Chatbots could then help citizens self-serve, finding the services they need and having their queries answered more quickly. All while freeing up local authority staff to work on other strategically focused tasks. 

By choosing and specifying the right network, you can build a bedrock for innovative digital tools and applications that give people access to services with just a few taps. 

Operational and cost-efficiencies

Through digital transformation, councils can streamline their back-office processes to reduce IT costs, enable better use of resources for members of the public and staff, which will help with engagement and productivity. 

Open and transparent data sharing beyond organisational boundaries will cultivate collaborative development and enable resources to be more effectively used. That means less duplication and overlap. 

By investing in data analytics, local authorities can also make smarter decisions, faster. And constituents could engage with their local authority as they would with any other customer service, increasing engagement and cutting costs. 

The average cost of a digital transaction in local government is roughly 15p, according to the Society for Innovation, Technology and Modernisation

Compare that to £2.83 for a telephone appointment or £8.62 for face-to-face, and the benefits and cumulative savings are easy to see. 

These savings are ripe for the taking, thanks to the ongoing digital innovation that local authorities have been introducing since March 2020. Now it’s time to consolidate the change and shape the public services of the future. Would you like to see how to embed change for the long-term?