Lee Kemp 23 March 2016

Making councils fit for the 21st century

Making councils fit for the 21st century image

Times of crisis bring out the best in the British character. The seeds of modern computer science were sown in the rush to decrypt German codes – while much of what we consider to be standard trauma care in hospitals was developed out of necessity on the frontline. With that history of innovation in times of crisis there is good reason to be positive about local government.

As we know cuts to budgets can only go so far. New ways of working must be found to allow local government to continue in a way that is meaningful and useful to those it serves. This is a problem to which there is no easy answer and the solutions lie within the associations and the communities they serve.

Customer satisfaction

As with any service industry success is based on the satisfaction of the end user. Underpinning all councils work should be an understanding of what the ‘customer’ needs from the service, when they need it and how they want to access it.

Take something as simple as council websites. Across the country there are all manner of designs that appear to have sprung up out of nothing more than a want to keep everything in-house. But this makes no sense for the customer or the council. Centralising website designs and having uniform interface across the country would free time and money for individual councils and, most importantly, make it far simpler for residents moving from one area to another to access information as they already know where to find it.

Once these issues are understood councils must open themselves to self-critiquing on how they can best deliver those services in the way users expect and how this fits within a local or national framework.

Delivery changes

Revolutionary change within any business is bound to worry people. But to be truly successful councils must bring all their staff along on the journey as each one of them could have the idea to unlock how to best deliver services. Those at the coalface will have a much different idea about how the service looks to the user than those in senior positions and all should have an equal input.

To that end cross-department working is key. It is highly unlikely that the user cares which department is providing the service and more that the services are delivered in the way they want. Breaking down the barriers of the traditional departmental way of thinking will allow disruptive ideas to flourish and could well bring about your Enigma moment as well as making sure that all staff feel involved meaning the end product is more likely to succeed.

Ability to adapt

All of the above, however, would be for nothing if in 20 years’ time local government finds itself in the same position. To be able to adapt local government must create an agile model that allows it to adapt to changes far quicker than the present model. So while the current needs of customers should be looked at, developing a team that is able to change is also key.

The current situation has often been cast in a negative light but channelling a spirit of previous innovators local government can evolve into an even better provider that is able to respond to customers’ needs in ways that are unthinkable at the moment. We are only restricted by our current thinking and current cultural paradigm.

Lee Kemp is director of Coaching for Change

This feature first appeared in Local Government News magazine. Click here to register for your free copy.

Sutton Councils IoT pilot project image

Sutton Council's IoT pilot project

David Grasty, head of digital strategy & portfolio for Kingston and Sutton Councils, outlines how in-home sensors have improved the safety of vulnerable residents living in social housing.
SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Director of Children's Safeguarding and Care 

Gloucestershire County Council
Up to £116,391, plus relocation support
We are looking to fill this vital role at a very important time for us.  Our children’s services team is on an important journey of... Gloucestershire
Recuriter: Gloucestershire County Council

Corporate Director

Ceredigion County Council
£97,294 - £104,086
We are looking to recruit an ambitious and truly transformational leader to support the delivery of modernised and sustainable services to... Penmorfa, Porthmadog
Recuriter: Ceredigion County Council

Street Works Co-ordinator

Lincolnshire County Council
£21,153 - £23,791
Do you want to make a difference to how Street Works are managed within Lincolnshire? Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Community Co-ordinator (Health inequalities)

Brent Council
£32,418 - £34,209 p.a. inc.
The successful candidate will have evidenced experience of working in a community environment. Brent, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Homelessness Prevention and Relief Officer

Brent Council
£32,418 - £34,209 p.a. inc. (pro-rata)
You must have an understanding of homelessness legislation, and an ability to learn legislation quickly with training, coupled with... Brent, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue