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How to deal with the uncertainty that local government faces

Michael Kitts

It was great to meet so many council Leaders and Chief Executives at last month’s LGA Annual Conference. As ever, there was a packed agenda and a wealth of information and insights that were incredibly helpful to learn from.

Perhaps our greatest takeaway was the uncertainty that local government faces and how that might be dealt with. Ipsos’ recent ‘Signals of the future for local government’ report, commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA), highlights some of these uncertainties and challenges:

  1. Boosting productivity, pay, jobs and living standards – workforce attraction, retention, diversity, digital/physical divide
  2. Spreading opportunity and improving public services – digital, ageing populations, mental health, mobility, and less travel/climate impact
  3. Restoring a sense of community and local pride – post-Covid activity, digital leverage, drawing on community support and assets
  4. Empowering local leaders – climate, levelling up (that matters), overcoming impending further restrictions

Ipsos MORI’s Chief Executive, Ben Page, flagged three key takeaways from this report:

  1. We can’t predict the future -It’s not about being right, it’s about being prepared.
  2. There are multiple possible outcomes -Discussing what is probable allows us to identify future opportunities and mitigate threats.
  3. Start a conversation – What is the preferable future for local councils – and how can we take control to make this more likely?

These three areas resonate very strongly with IMPOWER’s focus and our client work.

It’s integral to be prepared for, and resilient to change – as Jon Ainger, IMPOWER Director says: “It is our belief that resilience can be deliberately invested in, and that the choice to do so is down to local leaders.”

IMPOWER’s Resilience Framework is designed specifically for public sector organisations managing large, complex systems where disruptions, small and large, occur all the time. It is grounded in academic research into what makes complex systems inherently resilient, and via some real-world testing and learning, we have translated this into a practical toolkit for leaders of local public services. We apply this practical toolkit to ensure we leave our clients more resilient.

We must migrate from responding to events after they have happened (organisationally or individually). Predictions and insights that support preventative interventions is key to success. This applies significantly in the health and care world – avoiding step-up in care and to organisations and broader systems such as Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) partnerships. Multiple data and insights are available, or could be, but drawing on these, and critically, securing strategic, behavioural and operational change are what will make sustainable impact.

On the third point, local authority control also needs to be augmented with influence… how can local authorities work with, and influence other system players, to support better outcomes for people and place. The analogy here is a Copernican Revolution, a shift in the field of astronomy from the universe being centred around Earth, to a heliocentric understanding, centred around the Sun. Our EDGEWORK® approach recognises and focuses that the system (not single organisational bodies) must work together and be ‘centred’ around people and place, and the outcomes that matter to them.

If you would like to find out more about our approach, please do get in touch.

Written by

Michael Kitts

Consulting Director, IMPOWER

IMPOWER INSIGHTS

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