The world we’re in

Since 2010, local government has had to manage a 37% cut in its budget. Demand for public services continues to rise. Devolution, Brexit and policies such as 100% business rate retention have added layers of complexity to the economic and political landscape.

The challenge facing Chief Executives and Finance Directors is how to balance statutory duties, organisational strategy (helping people and places to thrive) and tightening budgets. And with that, managing an organisation – and its staff – to make that happen.

Our insight

Councils have pretty much squeezed as much as they can out of the system in terms of efficiencies. However, with more savings to find, councils need to be smarter about demand.

As such, iMPOWER challenges councils to ask themselves “what level of demand can you afford?” rather than “what services can continue to be delivered on x budget?”. We believe that better outcomes cost you less if you do prevention and do it effectively. A lot of avoidable demand is caused by the behaviours of citizens and organisations, and there is something you can do about it.

Demand management is not about only helping some citizens and ignoring the rest. Demand management is about understanding what demand is avoidable, and then reducing demand to both a genuine and affordable level. By identifying what levels of demand are affordable, councils can then design strategy, services and finances in a way that is sustainable and improves outcomes. We call this approach the Target Demand Model.

The Target Demand Model enables councils to meet statutory obligations, deliver innovative policies and services that improve outcomes, and balance the budget.


  • Focusing on the overlap between what councils need to achieve, and what citizens want: It is in this ‘sweet spot’ that services can manage demand, improve outcomes and reduce cost.
  • Identifying the system edge: Understand what parts of the system can be influenced (beyond council services) and can’t (problems that require national/central solutions). By identifying the sphere of influence (the system edge), it opens the council up to new ideas and possibilities for managing demand, in ways that will have the most impact.
  • Co-designing interventions and services that change behaviours: Demand management challenges both institutions, partners and citizens to act differently. This requires changing behaviours using behavioural insight.

In our 2016 insight survey, 66% of Chief Executives and Directors told us that demand management was either ‘important’ or ‘a central plank’ of their strategic planning over the next five years.

How we help councils

We help our clients to understand and manage demand.

Ideally, this approach would be embedded throughout the council. However, we understand that councils are facing urgent strategic and financial pressures. As such we work with clients on projects that deliver both immediate impact and long-term sustainable change. Examples of projects include:

  • Understanding ‘avoidable’ demand across council services.
  • Co-designing interventions (behavioural trials) to change behaviour and reduce demand.
  • Supporting councils who are keen to explore alternative delivery models – which models could work and working through from options appraisal to delivery
  • Designing the council budget around demand; aligning vision and strategy around budget goals.
  • Incorporating demand management into the digital design process.
  • Helping councils get ‘financial grip’ where in-year overspends are forecast.

As well as working with corporate and senior leadership teams on strategy and financial planning, iMPOWER works on specific service areas and on issues that cut across council directorates. For example:

  • Homelessness
  • All age disability
  • Environmental services

Financial Grip: A Behavioural Approach

Making uncertainty work for you The MJ.

Get in touch

For more information about the work that we do in local government advisory, please contact

Jon Ainger, Director,

Jenny McArdle, Director,