A local authority membership organisation that brings together service re-designers, front office managers, information analysts and commissioners has suggested that councils move from 'deliverers' to 'co-ordinators' of services, working as platforms through which people access services.
iNetwork - comprising more than 100 organisations across health, Police, emergency services and councils - has proposed that services could be delivered by a cross-sector amalgamation of councils, other local public services, voluntary organisations or companies to cope with public sector austerity.
According to iNetwork Director Phil Swan, the idea is "the consensus" from iNetwork's programme Local Re:Think; a programme of events and training that invites councils, subject experts, peers and innovators to explore the future shape of local public services. The idea came out of iNetwork's sub-group on service redesign and reform and has also been floated by several individual members.
"I'm hearing lots of conversations around transferring services from councils to other agencies", said Swan who is also Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council Assistant Executive Director. "One council I spoke to is looking at delivering the front office with a distributed back office. People are thinking about different models. Everyone right now should be kissing as many frogs as they can".
It will require "wholesale change" to reconfigure local authority services, particularly in health and social care, he told Local Digital, as local authorities struggle to deliver services with rapidly diminishing budgets.
On the positive side, Swan said "Local government has shown it's phenomenally capable of delivering [services] differently over the last two or three years" and cited the Department of Communities and Local Government's 'Whole place community budgets' which organise public spending by place, rather than by organisation or service, as a "massive opportunity".
Meanwhile, Local Re:Think aims to provide a forum for local authorities to consider how best to re-shape their services. "The next 12 months will be painful but it's really going to define what local government will look like for the next five to 10 years. We can create space for people to talk about art of the possible", said Swan.