For those who work for public sector organisations, both central and local, and for service providers who care about delivering value to public sector, times are incredibly challenging. With the latest round of budget announcements and the re-base lining of CSR's many local authorities, already facing the dilemma of cutting service provision with the spiraling costs for Adult Social Care provision, will have to dig even deeper to save further costs or maintain a fiscal position.
If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change
Interestingly the Audit Commission published figures from 2007 to 2012 stating that some 70% of councils increased their cash reserves relative to their spending, with some more than doubling their cash reserves. Clearly, like so many private sector businesses, building up cash reserves is a prudent financial practice to take in the current climate of austerity. The Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles reckoned people would be surprised that councils were "hoarding billions" while "pleading poverty". He said it was "disappointing and irresponsible that some sections of local government chose to scare the public with predictions of doom and gloom".
Taking some learning's from the private sector
Since 2007, things have been getting gloomier across the board in public sector. One thing which I am a great believer in is taking business practices and business sentiments from the private sector and using this to potentially change the way that public sector looks at and addresses challenges.
In many private sector organisations the concept of "spend to save" focused on the delivery of better service provision, customer acquisition and retention and the ability to make things cheaper to maintain profit in a flat sales environment and so on. Importantly, most of these private sector initiatives would fail without access to high quality information which these businesses can take actionable decisions on.
The potential opportunities for Public Sector adoption here are significant. Below is a list of two things from many which public sector organisations could gain significant financial advantage from. The real question being-should they be prepared to dig into their reserves to provide great transparency to the citizen and taxpayer.
I believe that continued lack of focus on Information innovation and associated exploitation within local authorities could well mean that council services will continue to be cut back beyond the point of being viable.
I believe that Information Management should be placed at the heart of democracy and greater focus should be applied to leveraging the value of Information assets to deliver strategic value. Perhaps, a "spend to save approach" with Information centric innovation may keep public sector away from the "tipping point" of closing citizen services.