What lies ahead for the
UK’s local authorities?

 
 
 
 
 
 

THE NEW EVERYDAY IN
LOCAL GOVERNMENT

 
 
The challenges brought by coronavirus are ever changing. Shifting restrictions and regulations mean local authorities have to stay alert and agile to what the future might bring.
 
But they have one advantage that helps them prepare for whatever comes next: they’ve been through this before. Just like in Spring 2020, councils are once again being forced to return to their roots and focus almost wholly on public health and the safety of local citizens. 
 
With the activities of people and organisations restricted again, pressure has increased to support the most vulnerable in their care. They’re ramping up support for new and existing services, whether stocking food banks, tackling loneliness in the community or providing shelter for the homeless.
 
During the first national lockdown, uptake of online services soared. More people than ever were trying to access digital services for housing and education services. Worcestershire Council, for example, had 250,000 visitors to its website in May 2020 – more than ever before – with 50,000 downloading library e-books and more than 3,000 accessing Covid-19 support services.
 
 
 
 

And where citizens needed new skills to access these services, councils acted proactively.  Manchester City Council set up a one-to-one telephone advice service to residents who weren’t confident enough to use digital services.

 

Local authorities are meeting this challenge again. Even before the second lockdown began, Oxford City Council restarted six Locality Resource Hubs to support vulnerable people who don’t have their own personal network.  

 

It’s all the more remarkable that local authorities have coped with the increased pressure despite staff being forced to leave council buildings and begin home working. In April, local authorities were even handed new powers to hold public meetings virtually by using video or telephone conferencing technology.

 

But what does this mean for the way UK local authorities will work in the future?

 
 
 
 
 
 

LOCAL AUTHORTIES GO REMOTE

During the first peak of the pandemic, 82% of local authority workers were working from home. But far from this being seen as a challenge, the public sector has viewed it as an opportunity. 

Technology has proven critical to the continuing provision of local services. And the local authorities we spoke to as part of our Global Data study will continue to invest. 

43% expect their IT budgets to largely stay the same. 10% expect them to increase. Covid-19 has been a catalyst to accelerate the local authority digital agenda.

55% of local authorities rate digital transformation as a top business priority going forward. But over half still haven’t finalised their post-Covid-19 recovery plans. 

Local authorities should be using this appetite for transformation to drive their rebound. Because technology has seen them through volatility, and it can drive them to recovery. 

 
 
 
 

Covid has accelerated digital agendas through necessity. This has given people real exposure to what IT is is capable of - reducing footprints, commuting, carbon footprint & increasing agility

 
 
 
 
 
 

CHALLENGES FOR THE NEW WORKFORCE

The new local authority will be shaped by its use of remote working. Just as in many private companies, it’s here to stay.

62% of the local authorities we surveyed predicted a higher percentage of home workers going forward. 

70% believed they’d be bringing in more flexible working practices. And 65% will be making greater use of collaborative technologies like Microsoft Teams.

And this has far-reaching impacts on the future of the local public sector.

With online services ingrained and familiar to citizens, and a much bigger percentage of home-working public sector employees, many council buildings could become redundant. 

30% of local authorities believe they will soon sell or stop renting unneeded space, while 41% believe their travel budgets will reduce.

A widespread period of estate rationalisation for authorities across the country could soon be on the cards. 

 
 
 
 

We will look at increasing work from home generally and will have to look at connectivity, which we currently pay for permanent home workers

 
 
 
 
 
 

Our cashier service to pay bills over the counter has not been availaable for 3 months

local government customer

 
 
 
 

This change is creating challenges for local authorities. 

 

The pre-existing digital gap between rural locations and towns has also been highlighted, with poor home broadband in some areas proving a barrier to productivity. 

 

38% see providing better IT for remote workers as a key challenge.There are also problems in replicating traditional working cultures – local authorities are missing the human interaction and corridor conversations that can be key in decision making and collaboration.

 
 
 
 

While video interaction has plugged the gap, these calls alone will not be enough in the long term.

 

And then there are the technical issues. 

 

37% of local authorities need to move legacy applications to the Cloud and 43% say they need to ensure better security and compliance for remote workers.

 
 
 
 
 
 

NEW PRIORITIES FOR BETTER SERVICES

The entire purpose of a local authority is to drive better services for its citizens.

 

It’s this underpinning philosophy that pushes through new technologies and innovations for the greater common good.

 

Through the challenges of Covid-19, local authorities have discovered new methods to do this. And they’re prioritising new things as a result.

 
 
 
 
 
 

84% of local government organisations put security at the top of the pile. Yet only 24% are prioritising virtual desktops.

 

Virtual desktops can be vitally important to the ongoing security of a remote working organisation. Especially those that are accessing data through the cloud.

 

Integration in the cloud is viewed as the way forward, and post-Covid localauthorities need cloud integration more than any other public sector organisations.

 

37% believe switching from legacy to cloud apps is their top future challenge, compared to 22% of education providers and 24% in healthcare.

 

70% see the ongoing provision of mobile working options as the priority. So far, cloud collaboration apps have been critical to this.

 
 
 
 

Investment in this type of technology is clearly expected to continue, and its use for all sorts of communications will only become more widespread.

 

Local authorities have come to appreciate the importance of having strong network foundations – the key platform on which every service can be built. 

 

59% want to increase their network capacity. They will need networks that continue to grant them flexibility and security. 

 

By incorporating SD-WAN, a flexible network with the ability to meet increases in demand when and where they happen, local authorities will have that ability to scale. 

 

It will also provide them with the protection they need, offering end-to-end encryption to avoid exposing any sensitive data while transforming services.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Teams & 365 have been critical. Teams usage increased to 9000% as a result of Covid. We use it for internal, external and everything in-between. If you can work from home productively, continue to do so.

 
 
 
 

THE NEW LOCAL AUTHORITY

 
 

Throughout the pandemic, local authorities have rapidly adapted in order to keep providing citizens with vital services that support local communities and the most vulnerable.

 

It was this flexibility that is allowing people to stay on top of everything from local welfare services to tax and planning enquiries and the day the recycling goes out. And it’s crucial that we don’t let momentum falter. Because strong local authorities mean strong services that benefit everyone.

 

The new local authority that has emerged must continue to embrace digital transformation.

 
 
 
 

It should invest in the technologies that will let it continue to remain resilient, provide better services and improve lives.

 

There will be challenges on the road to rebound, but many local authorities have already started their journey. To navigate the journey ahead, public-private partnerships can bring in new expertise and resources that will help any authority to deliver in the wake of Covid-19.

 

If local authorities grasp the opportunities that lie within digital transformation, they can revolutionise the everyday for UK citizens, not just now but in months and years to come.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Want to know
what's happening
in other sectors?

 
 

Want to know what's happening in other sectors?