Since the banking crash in 2007 local government in the UK has born the brunt of substantial funding reductions from Central Government aimed at reducing public sector debt (the National Audit Office reported an estimated 49% fall in real terms of government funding for local authorities from 2010-11 to 2017-18). This has been exacerbated by rising demand linked to demographic change. Local authorities have been compelled to innovate to survive by using a range of measures including commercialisation, rationalisation, shared services and reorganisation.
So a manager in Local Government nowadays needs to be very creative. He or she needs to do more with less. Productivity is key. The manager needs to deliver in different ways for instance by combining services with other Councils, finding new sources of income or by looking for partnerships with the private sector. Organisational structures need to be lean and effective and must have the ability to adapt as new opportunities arise.
But it is not only resourcing that is driving change. The mission in Local Government is surely to improve the quality of people's lives and improve the quality of the public services in every local community. This objective demands ambition. The ambition and expectation also exists within the communities. The Local Government Manager may wish to use familiar private sector approaches to focus on the needs of the customer and be effective in communicating and responding to customers’ needs.
So where does the CMI fit into this picture? The CMI can help equip managers with the skills to manage change and to create credible and confident leaders. But in Local Government I believe the opportunity is greater. By combining the vision and values of public service with the best managerial skills of the private sector then there is an exciting chance to make a real difference.
The Eastern Branch has got the ball rolling and arranged two seminars with a number of local government managers asking them about their priorities in managing change. I think the next step is to bring the managers from both the private sector and local government together to share best practice and new ideas. No one sector has the monopoly of excellence and we can all learn from each other.
Captain Picard famously and repeatedly issued the management instruction ‘ and let it be so’ – sadly real life is never quite so simple but I suggest we can believe in a better future and make sure we have the best possible management skills to do this by combining the best of the private and public sectors together.
CMI Eastern Region