include town hall e-Government practitioners who claim the cost of delivering frontline public services have moved up significantly in the last four years without a concomitant uplift in quality where it matters most. Concentration on ‘e’ channels have left areas of highest demand and highest spend relatively untouched, the report suggests.
Hewson Group director Nick Hewson, says “The main problem is that politically attractive and easy to address areas have attracted the most attention.
“Big spending departments such as social services have remained largely untouched and delivery mechanisms other than online and call centres have not been subject to any real change”
“There are a number of priority objectives that actually get in the way of
delivering sustainable service improvements and efficiencies,” says David Gale, Derby City Council’s principal IT Consultant, a contributor to the report.
“Without the ‘vision’ or big picture, implementing e-Government becomes little more than a bean-feast for suppliers, only too keen to lock you in to their proprietary systems architecture, with a module to enable this, and a new module to enable that.” Gale adds
The report argues in the last fifteen years the leading private sector companies have had to undertake radical transformations to deal with consumer demand and deliver services faster and cheaper . To succeed they have embraced investment in relevant technologies together with cultural change and applied far reaching revision to both processes and infrastructure.
“We see very little evidence of any public sector transformation comparable
to private sector” said Nick Hewson “Without this happening it is difficult to see how frontline services can be improved across the most relevant channels and costs reduced at the same time. It is clearly important that every 1 that it is spent by local authorities is made to work very hard. We don’t believe that it is working very hard at all right now and the process and structure inefficiencies may mean that for many Authorities, arguably, only about 85-90p is truly defensible. This represents a huge latent saving that could be directed at reducing council tax or providing more services”.
The report authors are not arguing for cuts in services or for a privatization agenda. Melanie Badenhorst, operations director at Hewson and a veteran of local government business process re-engineering believes there is a compelling argument for seeking more efficiency:
“Delivery of the sort of services everybody wants from a local authority depends on far better partnership working with radically reduced process cycles. You simply cannot do one without the other but there is a worrying lack of will to do more than merely finesse current working practices rather than change them. Local Authorities cannot ignore the best practice existing elsewhere. It must take the best of the lessons to be learnt from private sector and acknowledge that this supports the public sector ethos and not attacks it”