This blog is based on my recent article published in the MJ
Never has the need for local government service delivery teams to have a commercialisation strategy been more apparent than at present.
With diminishing budgets and rising demand, the prophets of doom are generating graphs of financial Armageddon, so should councils run up the White flag and start to close down everything other than statutory services? Of course they shouldn’t. The public want and need local government to provide the range of services that make the quality of their lives bearable, especially in such tough times.
So how do we reduce the gap in finances to achieve some semblance of a managed transformation? For me it’s about pursuing efficiencies to the absolute to eradicate any systemic waste, it’s about managing the demands and expectations of citizens, it’s about being innovative and creative with opportunities and it’s about raising income to offset budget reductions and hold together the capacity to continue to provide services.
If councils take a balanced and proportionate response based on these principles then they will continue to play a meaningful role in local communities, which will ensure that they are able to contribute significantly to tackling the major public policy challenges of the day on their behalf.
Efficiency and demand management have had considerable coverage recently, perhaps income generation and innovation less so. This is not about soaking the public for ever greater charges for services but it is about seeking out new revenue streams from partner organisations, which link to areas of corporate strategy and public need.
Some authorities are utilising the new homes bonus to build new housing units and generate a revenue stream through rental income, whilst tackling chronic housing shortages. Others are using public health budgets to enhance the contribution that their leisure services make to supporting active lifestyles. Many have used feed in tariffs in their various guises to create renewable energy projects which help tackle climate change, fuel poverty and contribute to the short, mid and long term financial strategy of the council. Similar to this others are pursuing funding that exists for energy efficiency projects which the big energy suppliers are only too willing to part with for their own reasons.
APSE’s recent research on Municipal Entrepreneurship clearly identified that commercial acumen exists within local government and the roles of catalysts, stewards, mediators and deliverers are prevalent amongst the ranks. What are you doing to identify who the innovators and entrepreneurs are in your organisation or service and mould the commercial team and strategy required for these tough times?