Reduce demand for services to tackle funding cuts, councils told

24 Feb 14
Councils could be doing more to make citizens more resilient and reduce demand for public services, according to a Royal Society of Arts report

Although local authorities will be facing a £14.4bn funding black hole by the end of the decade, relatively few are looking at what can be done to address demand management, the think-tank said.

Today’s report, Managing demand: building future public services, sets out what councils can do to bring about a ‘fundamental cultural shift’ that would ensure outcomes are shaped by active, independent and resilient citizens.

These include adoption of ‘nudge’ and ‘network’ techniques to service areas such as recycling, littering and school transport, engaging the communities in the design and commissioning of services, as well as commissioning more preventative services and focusing on outcomes.

Ben Lucas, chair of public services at the RSA, said: ‘Public services are facing huge pressures from shrinking resources, rising demand and changing society. Our research indicates the need for a new approach to responding to these challenges.

‘Demand management has emerged as an influential agenda in local government, but it often lacks definition. In this report we provide a framework for understanding how demand management can meet the challenges facing local public services and society, built on a new lasting relationship with citizens and communities.’

The report was produced in partnership with the Local Government Association, the Economic and Social Research Council, Collaborate and Impower.

LGA chair Sir Merrick Cockell said there needed to be an ‘honest reappraisal’ of what public services should look like.

‘As well as supporting early intervention we need to promote and sustain changes of behaviour in communities that will help councils to manage rising demand,’ he said.

‘So far local authorities have largely restricted the impact of the funding cuts on their residents and have protected spending on social care for children and the elderly. But even these areas are now facing reductions. That impact will only increase over the next two years for those who use and rely on the vital everyday local services that councils provide.’

The report follows up on Beyond nudge, an earlier RSA study, which found that councils were reaching the limits of conventional money-saving strategies.


CIPFA logo

PF Jobsite logo

Did you enjoy this article?