Catalyst Councils

A new future for local public service delivery

Author: Daniel Crowe, Localis   |  

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Catalyst Councils

A new future for local public service delivery

Localis, in partnership with Capita Symonds (part of Capita plc), has published a major report that predicts that the local government sector will face irrevocable change and that instead of the ‘traditional’ council that does everything itself, a more diverse approach will see councils working with a patchwork of organisations from across the public, private and voluntary sectors to deliver the local services that communities rely on – waste collection, road maintenance, social care, planning, housing, environmental health etc.

Catalyst Councils’, launched by the Minister for Government Policy, Rt. Hon. Oliver Letwin MP, and the Chairman of the Local Government Association, Councillor Sir Merrick Cockell, finds that, in these testing times for town hall budgets, more than a third of council leaders and chief executives think that there are no local services that could not delivered by a 3rd party – whether a private or voluntary sector provider.

‘Catalyst Councils’ key findings are:

  • More than a third of council leaders and chief executives think that there are no local services that could not delivered by a 3rd party – whether a private or voluntary sector provider.
  • Local authorities are ahead of the game in developing innovative new ways of service delivery – with a wide variety of new approaches being trialled.
  • Both councils and external providers will need to embrace more risk and reward, as part of a more mature and strategic partnership approach.
  • More than two thirds of council chiefs saying that making use of external expertise and skills was a major reason for working with partners.
  • Despite having more experience than the rest of the public sector at commissioning, many councils would like to have greater skills in order to successfully commission these external providers.
  • That the Government and the LGA should establish a ‘Commission on Better Commissioning’ which could close the commissioning skills gap across the public sector by training up public service commissioners, and helping them to understand what they can and cannot do with regard to e.g. EU procurement directives.
  • The new way of working for local authorities will rely on honest, trusting and mutually beneficial relationships, with both residents and external partners from the public, private and third sectors.

Commenting on ‘Catalyst Councils’, Minister for Government Policy Rt. Hon. Oliver Letwin MP described it as “an enormously useful contribution” and said:

“We absolutely have to find the means of allowing things to be done at a much more local level than they have been done before and within each locality find the means to allow things to be done by a much wider range of diverse providers.”

He added that:

“I suspect that, fifteen or twenty years from now, we will find a Britian in which people can’t imagine how things used to be so centralised and so dominated by one model of delivery.”

Further that, in the future, “we’ll regard it as completely natural to do things that just a few things ago were regarded as immensely radical … this is a change in the direction of a nation.”

Councillor Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the Local Government Association and Leader of RB of Kensington & Chelsea, also welcomed the report and spoke of “a turbo-charged localism”, and his experiences seeing many areas with the ambition to “take up the challenge being offered to them now under localism.”

Alex Thomson, Chief Executive of Localis said:

“Local government is already ahead of the game in finding new and innovative ways to meet the efficiency challenge. But as the Minister rightly points out, in a decade or two the world will be incredibly different and we’ll wonder why we didn’t do some of these things sooner.”

Christian Rogers, Director, Capita Symonds, said:

“This research provides a template for the future of public service delivery. It demonstrates how councils can use innovative models to respond to – and solve – the myriad challenges they face in these difficult economic times.”

Support for ‘Catalyst Councils’ has come from a range of cross-party figures across central and local government:

Lord Shipley, Government Cities Adviser, said:

“This is an important contribution explaining how local services can continue to be delivered in the face of rising demand and declining resources. It rightly identifies the need for citizens to have a more central role in defining service needs. The proposals for simpler procurement and a stronger role for cooperatives and mutuals will resonate with local government leaders who must innovate to deliver the services and security so many of their residents need.”

Councillor David Burbage, Leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council, said:

“With spending reductions to make, all councils are having to look at ever increasingly diverse methods of service provision. This report provides a valuable guide to the different kinds of delivery models being used across the country and encourages politicians and senior council officers to go further in exploring the right kind of service delivery for their area. The days of only using in-house employees to deliver services to residents have gone as the marketplace for local authorities to secure service provision continues to expand.”

Councillor Keith House, Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, said:

“As this report ably demonstrates, local government is leading the way on public service reform. As a sector, it is ahead of the curve in sharing services across organisational boundaries and thinking about new ways of working with partners to get the best services possible for residents, while still delivering value for money. The report does an excellent job of highlighting the innovative approaches being explored, and makes a number of recommendations that will help this culture of innovation to flourish in years to come.”

Councillor Jim McMahon, Leader of Oldham Council, said:

“This is a timely and salient report – local authorities need to re-evaluate the way that they meet their responsibilities. We can’t meet this challenge by doing things the same way, and the savings that we can achieve through conventional efficiency measures won’t last forever.”


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Catalyst Councils

A new future for local public service delivery