In demand and under pressure...Follow @pwc_ukgov
By Andy Ford, Local Government Partner
As the age of austerity continues, PwC surveyed local authority leadership at the end of the last financial year to examine how councils have coped with central government funding cuts. The good news is that we found those that responded were confident they would achieve their savings targets for the year and over one third of them were expecting to exceed their target. For the financial year ahead there was a similar level of optimism, with over 90% of chief executives expecting to be able to achieve their savings targets, and to do so without affecting service quality or outcomes.
But local authorities have by no means found their way out of the woods. Far and away the biggest concern for both council leaders and chief executives in terms of achieving their savings targets over the next few years is increasing demand for services. The pressures on housing and many other services, exacerbated by the downturn, and on adult social care, as our population ages, show little sign of stopping. Local authorities will need to take action to reduce demand for services. Otherwise no matter how efficient they become in delivering those services, costs will continue to rise.
But what can councils do to influence demand? Here are five of our ideas:
- Challenge the idea that nothing can be done about ‘statutory’ services. These are often ill-defined, and allow for discretion in how they are delivered and ‘to what level’.
- Local authorities used to run launderettes and public baths across the country. Challenge the ‘we’ve always done this’ argument. Ask the questions what’s demanded, what’s supplied and what’s needed?
- Understand the reasons behind growing demand and pinpoint where early intervention can prevent future demand pressures.
- Identify and reduce what’s only demanded because the council or other organisation has failed in the delivery of another service, for example a temporary care placement that might have been prevented by adjustments made to an individual’s home.
- Manage public expectations – what other ways might be found to deliver what’s needed and how can this be communicated?
In the longer term ‘influencing demand’ means fundamentally changing the relationship between the citizen and local government. If councils are to manage these growing pressures, they need to bring communities with them - on the scale of the challenges faced and the steps needed to address them.
Contact Andy Ford