George Osborne’s March 16th Budget upheld the Government’s previously announced drive to devolve powers to local authorities. Termed “a devolution revolution” in the Budget document, the Chancellor stated that, “this government is delivering on its commitments to transfer powers to each of the devolved administrations.”
Whilst it certainly makes sense that local authorities should hold greater powers to benefit their citizens, the question remains – how will local authorities be able to deliver public services without Central Government funding?
It is becoming clear authorities are now starting to shift their focus from being pure providers of services to their communities, to exploring how they can generate economic growth across their territory. Only with this economic growth will authorities see the associated rise in council tax and business rates revenues that will fund the future delivery of local services.
With changing of funding rules which fundamentally change the financial envelope in which authorities operate, councils will undoubtedly have to create a more efficient, cost-effective means of serving their citizens. Indeed, it is entirely possible that within the next five years the delivery of all local public services, including potentially neighbourhood policing, will be delivered through one local public service body.
In the meantime, irrespective of the delivery model, it has become very clear that having both access and an ability to interpret data is fundamental to ensuring that services are delivered to the those citizens who need them at the right place, the right time, in the right way and at a sustainable cost. As you may have guessed from the title of this post, we at CGI believe that part of the answer to this challenge will be using technology to facilitate greater collaboration between the various agencies within local authorities.
Many agencies are already collaborating through shared working spaces known as Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH). Bringing together staff is a good starting point to reducing costs, but we need to take it a step further and bring together data, if we are to become efficient and effective as well as economic. Local authorities have access to vast amounts of data but it’s often siloed and gives each agency a view of only a fraction of an individual’s life.
As things currently stand each member of a community will have touch points with a multitude of different local government agencies and departments. Whether it’s your GP’s surgery, the police, schools or the local hospital, each will hold data that is only relevant to their individual function.
If true collaboration between agencies is to become a reality then each must be given the most complete view of each individual citizen possible. Through gaining a single view of these disparate data systems and making them accessible to each agency, councils can take the lead in moving to a more efficient, citizen-centric servicing model in which they have a far richer picture of not only the demands being placed on public services, but which citizens need the greatest service from the council.
Fundamental to delivering effective services will be using shared data and systems to move local authorities from a curative to preventative agenda. That is, using data from various agencies to automatically flag potential incidents before they occur so that relevant authorities can step-in and prevent escalation. For instance, a young child with regular bruising would be highlighted as warranting closer scrutiny.
The drive towards devolution is gaining pace, and if councils are to create viable communities then managing demand on public services will need to be the cornerstone of this. Empowering Local Authorities with greater insight into the citizens they serve, automating the processes of highlighting at-risk citizens and preventing incidents from escalating is a crucial step towards prosperous devolved local authorities.
This blog is the second of a three-part series, read part one - The need for collaboration across blue light services.