Local government weathering the storm

Local government weathering the storm

Local governments face difficult conditions when thinking about long-term sustainability; how can they be successful?

Amid budget cuts and a cost-of-living crisis, fueled in part by an annual inflation rate of 11.1% – a 41-year high, many already struggling local governments are finding it difficult, with broader community implications such as job creation to persevere. Build houses, support businesses and invest in new infrastructure.

Many local governments have been forced to cut services to cut costs despite playing a crucial role in supporting and protecting communities. Local government recognizes the need for change but is hampered by a challenging and unsupportive political and economic environment.

Local authorities must take it upon themselves to accelerate change by embracing the digital transformation needed to better serve and connect with their communities. To support them in these efforts, they need a fairer distribution of delegated powers and a more secure and sustainable funding model.

The Modern Council

The public sector has been dealt a difficult hand in recent years. Councils in particular have struggled with austerity measures since the 2008 financial crisis, which have led to budget and staff cuts. Since then they have had to support their communities through a pandemic and now another financial crisis.

While the national government has committed to giving local areas more power to “drive local growth and address local challenges,” it has not provided a secure path to funding to help councils assume expanded roles and responsibilities. Instead, there are often more responsibilities but no more funding to fulfill them.

Without sufficient funds, municipalities cannot fulfill their responsibilities or provide the services that many citizens depend on

Without sufficient funds, municipalities cannot fulfill their responsibilities or provide the services that many citizens depend on. For years we’ve seen local governments try to gradually cut their budgets, but budgets that cut salami are no longer tenable; Councils need to address new delivery models.

Inevitably we will see local governments limit some of their services to core supplies.

But the worst thing municipalities can do now is stop investing in digital transformation to save money. Advanced technological solutions such as low-code, robotic process automation, digitized customer experience solutions, artificial intelligence, and machine learning—when used strategically—can improve the state of the modern council. Are these panaceas?

no But they offer communities a way to future-proof themselves and ensure long-term sustainability.

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How can councils play a winning hand?

Even if the current climate is not ideal, it offers opportunities.

When done with senior support and a strategic vision, automation helps community workers deliver better services. However, to truly realize the benefits of digital transformation, municipalities need to be diligent throughout the procurement process and, once adopted, integrate their solutions at scale across the organization.

Done right, citizen requests are processed faster and overall efficiency and productivity increase. This relieves overburdened employees and saves costs for financially troubled communities. Employees can focus on value-added work that leverages their expertise and knowledge, making their work more fulfilling and impactful. This increases the likelihood of retaining workers.

A flexible platform with a comprehensive suite of advanced technologies can help municipalities leverage their existing in-house capabilities to go digital with minimal time-to-value. For example, low-code helps municipalities build solutions faster by allowing business technologists, not just developers, to participate in application development.

A low-code application platform enabled Tewkesbury Borough Council to grow its service revenues, including 35% revenue growth from yard waste over three years. As the fastest growing borough outside of London, Tewkesbury has experienced a surge in demand that could only be met with the right tools. The change has resulted in significant financial savings, more time to organize, and a better citizen experience.

City councils should look for solutions with innovation-enabling licenses that allow them to develop as much as they want without paying extra every time they want to create a new application.

Cumbria Council achieved huge financial and resource savings with a limited budget, a small team of four and low-code technology. Recognizing the need for organization-wide involvement, the Digital Team drove digital support and developed a vision that led to the creation of 16 solutions in just 12 months.

Their low-code application platform enabled them to achieve all of their digital transformation goals, delivered 75% more time savings for Blue Badge clients, returned 28 weeks per year of efficiency to the management team, and a track and trace system to develop only ten days.

Collaborative user capabilities can also save councilors time and money on development by allowing them to customize solutions created by other councilors to meet their unique needs. They can share any application they create from scratch with other users, promoting the digitization of the entire municipal government sector.

The Cost of Inheritance

Legacy applications are the big (white) elephants in the room. They’re usually big investments – sunk costs in the millions. Because of their cost, despite their lack of value and functionality, many organizations fail to make the additional investments needed to derive value from their legacy infrastructure.

By integrating robotic process automation and low-code solutions, isolated legacy applications can be connected, facilitating free traffic. This eliminates unnecessary duplication and enables faster resolution times by providing the right information when needed, identifying problem areas, and gaining other actionable insights.

Investing in a comprehensive low-code application platform saves money

By integrating these solutions into their existing infrastructure, municipalities can support the modern digital applications and processes their citizens require and remain future-ready—all without having to completely replace or overhaul their existing systems. Investing in a comprehensive low-code application platform now saves city governments money in the long run and avoids rework and other ancillary costs.

On average, municipalities operate over 800 services and play an important role in their communities. The stakes are high for the citizens they serve, and communities can protect these services when they look for digital tools that put them in control by sourcing for the digital age, not analog.

By Mark Gannon, Head of Client Solutions, Netcall

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