The history of the UK public sector is punctuated by major cycles of reform, often driven by the need to optimise the use of scarce resources. If the late 1980s and 1990s were concerned with efficiency and Best Value, then productivity is the economic concern of today’s zeitgeist.
In a research collaboration between Public Intelligence and APSE, The engine of the council? Evaluating frontline productivity in local government explores the ways in which frontline services in UK local government have increased productivity in recent years. During this current time of test and turmoil, this research looks at how local government managers have managed to increase productivity to help struggling services, rather than just reduce service provision.
This report builds on the unique insights provided by APSE Performance Networks data, and combines this data with original case study research to explore how frontline services across the UK are facing up to the productivity challenge. The report takes four local authorities as its in-depth case studies; Eastleigh, Fife, Swansea and Wakefield.
What becomes clear from these case studies is that there is no singular factor that can improve productivity on its own. They show that local government frontline services are deeply engaged with the need to change and increase productivity in the face of the historically unprecedented spending cuts. They show imaginative and committed managers reinventing themselves and their services, and they also highlight the role and responsibility played by frontline workers, who are rising to meet that challenge.
Paul O’Brien, APSE Chief Executive, said “We hope that this report contributes to filling an important gap in this area. It deliberately does not choose to concentrate on fiscal models, micro-economic theory or national policy, but instead focuses on and explores organisational-level approaches to productivity in frontline local government services.”
Copies of the report can be purchased on the APSE website.