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06.08.19

TechnologyOne: The shared services boom

Is austerity really over? Even if it is, that doesn’t mark the end of shared services for local government. Anwen Robinson, UK Operating Officer at TechnologyOne explains.

In the 2018 Autumn statement, chancellor Philip Hammond announced the “end of austerity” and trumpeted the recovery in public finances, indicating that the purse strings will be opened wide in this year’s spending review. However, according to Resolution Foundation, the end of austerity is more than a decade away, as the Treasury is still fully committed to balancing the budget – a goal that is said not to be achievable until 2027-28.

Since then, the chancellor’s spring budget update on the overall health of the economy continued to temper the celebrations somewhat as it became clear that local government is still in the dark about its funding future.

While spending commitments were made for infrastructure, housing, skills and clean growth – allowing the UK to capitalise on post-Brexit opportunities – little information was given as to what local government can expect from the spending review, due to be delivered with the completion of Brexit in October.

The end of half-hearted shared services

There is every hope that local government will get a share of the new spending likely to be announced in the autumn, but as Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association has said, local government is still facing a funding gap of more than £3 billion in 2019/20. Added to this, local government doesn’t have enough people to sustain the service levels needed for a growing and ageing population. According to Freedom of Information requests made by Unison across 231 councils, local government headcount dropped from 966,577 to 726,572 between 2010 and 2019. That’s a drop of 25 per cent since austerity began.

In the face of these challenges, the sharing of services has risen in popularity, particularly amongst smaller councils. While local government is continuing to see huge returns on their efforts to keep services running for citizens through comprehensive shared service programmes, paying lip service to shared working and the continued adoption of best of breed solutions will not work.

Getting shared services right

Investment in shared services has sometimes been difficult to gain support for, as the public and internal perception of merging local government organisations has not always been positive. And when the need for investment in new technology that underpins shared services is added to the mix, it can be viewed even less favourably. While local government organisations should be communicating the benefits both internally and externally to citizens, making sure that the transition provides visible service improvement is important. And a big part of that is making sure the right technology is procured to underpin the shared service.

A robust technology solution is critical to the successful application of shared services programs. For example, cloud-based enterprise solutions, providing Software as a Service (SaaS), enables local government to reduce their in-house IT costs, streamline processes and improve efficiency through end-to-end management of council systems.

While disparate systems deliver disparate data and a maze of integration issues, an integrated enterprise SaaS solution provides a single platform for councils to better connect on any device, at anytime, anywhere in the world. It allows councils to simplify their technology stack, gain a single source of truth and focus on what’s important – fast and efficient service delivery.

Using political uncertainty to embrace shared services

No matter how it’s viewed, with local government staffing levels at lows not seen since the millennium, the move towards shared services is not a matter of if but when. 

While some find any kind of transformation to be unsettling, others believe it’s an opportunity to reduce the administrative burden, improve the value of people’s jobs, and work smarter and more efficiently. So, whether austerity continues to bite, which we think it will, or local government gets an unexpected windfall in the autumn, the push towards shared services isn’t letting up.

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