Councils lack strategies for delivering efficiency savings

Local authorities may be getting to grips with efficiency savings, but 40% do not yet have strategies in place to achieve the spending cuts required, according to a report released today (6 June).

The YouGovStone study Local services: better for less found that on average, councils are expecting to make cuts of 20% by 2014, with one-third anticipating 25% or more and one in ten targeting over 30%.

However this is likely to mean radical change in the way environmental services such as waste management and street cleaning are delivered. But in many cases the plans for achieving these savings are still being created or have not been approved.

The research, which surveyed chief executives and directors from 101 local authorities, found that councils expect to increase outsourcing levels by 70%, moving from 20% average outsourcing levels in 2011 to 34% by 2014.

While 84% of councils believe outsourcing has been successful in achieving savings, only 58% believe it is critical for them to achieve their targets.

The study also found that 44% of councils cited political concerns as a barrier to outsourcing; 28% identified a lack of capacity; and 27% a lack of skills for delivering change.

In addition, 75% of councils believe the citizen’s voice will be fundamental to future delivery models and 76% believe more local control will enhance local authorities’ ability to meet their targets.

The study was commissioned on behalf of Interserve whose chief executive Adrian Ringrose said: ” This research highlights a reticence among local authorities to tackle some of the larger and more publicly focused areas of spend.

“Delivering savings to the extent necessary will require more radical change than simply increasing outsourcing levels. Councils clearly indicate that they are interested in procuring best-value solutions rather than adopting a purely cost-based approach, yet they don’t appear willing to undertake a full review of their service delivery.”

Maxine Perella

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