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All eyes will be on the Chancellor this week as he prepares to unveil his first budget. Hearing what Jeremy Hunt has to say about rising energy bills and the cost of living crisis will be a priority for many people who are struggling to make ends meet. However, there’s an equally important issue which impacts public services but hasn’t reached the same levels of public awareness - public sector resilience.
It is resilience - the capacity to overcome change and disruption - that impacts the public sector’s ability to deliver crucial public services and support vulnerable citizens. The last few years have tested local government immensely. A global pandemic, followed by the war in Ukraine and a cost-of-living crisis, have led to new government policies that need to be implemented locally – the Energy Bills Rebate and Homes for Ukraine Scheme are just two examples. With pressure on both budgets and a tight Labour market, the public sector is working in partnership with the private sector to adapt to these challenges while continuing to meet the needs of citizens. This partnership which is driving public sector productivity is essential for growth.
Thinking strategically about resilience
Resilience enables councils to underpin mission critical services with flexible workforce and service delivery models that provide extra support to ensure local citizens get the help they need. It also provides more space to innovate to raise standards. This is why it’s vital that resilience is seen as a strategic choice, where councils have the means to plan ahead and work collaboratively with partners, rather than as a reactionary measure.
As Joe Sarling from the Local Government Chronicle states in his recent article, “Building resilience is also about the need for a new economic vision. This is important for both national and local policy – a stronger and more holistic focus on local economic systems and greater spending autonomy for councils helping to shape and support their economies.”
With the UK economy in fragile position, investment in resilience is essential to enable local authorities to weather the inevitable storm that lies ahead. In our recent report; Roadmap to resilience: Building flexible capabilities in local government, we explore the benefits of strategic resilience planning in more detail.
- A flexible, on demand approach: Support that can be dialled-up or down to maintain high standards of service delivery.
- Expertise whenever it’s needed: Utilising experienced and highly qualified experts.
- Flexible procurement: Meeting the needs of local authorities and giving them autonomy through flexible procurement models.
- Smarter forecasting: Using data to enable councils to plan for the long-term and predict service demand.
Local councils face long-term challenges, such as making progress on net zero while also meeting local housing demands, that must be prepared for now. Building flexible resilience can provide the support, along with the technology, data and insight, to deliver the capability and capacity to handle these challenges.
What does greater resilience look like?
Taking a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to resilience can ensure better financial planning, as local councils that have the autonomy and foresight to plan ahead are not forced to make rushed decisions under pressure to respond to change.
Resilience can also accelerate digital transformation by bringing in the skills and capability that are needed to redesign and automate processes. This then frees up staff to focus on supporting vulnerable citizens.
Finally, it is clear that many people within the public sector feel under pressure. By thinking strategically about resilience, and working more closely with partners, local authorities can relieve some of the day-to-day stresses and improve staff engagement and retention.
I, for one, will be watching the budget on Wednesday with interest, to see whether any measures are put in place to support the public sector, so it can deliver the high standards of essential services citizens need.
Find out more about how we’re providing flexible capacity and expertise to support public sector resilience:
Managing Director & Client Partner, Capita Local Public Service
Paul comes from a public sector background and has spent his career transforming and improving upon the public sector in various roles, including with the Metropolitan Police and within Local Authorities, before moving to Capita in 2016. Driven by the opportunity to make a difference to people and communities, Paul works to improve resident and user experience, save money and transform services within local authorities, and the education and health sectors.