Most council bosses fear services will have to cut further, PwC poll finds

26 Mar 15
Just one in ten local government bosses are confident that their council can protect frontline services in the face of continued austerity over the next five years, a PwC poll has found.

A survey of 100 chief executives and leaders of local authorities around the UK found seven in ten respondents felt relatively confident of their ability to manage savings in the short term, compared to one in ten in the longer term.

PwC’s Local state we’re in survey, which looked at the challenges facing local government and their responses to them, insisted that council bosses had recognised the need to do things differently, looking beyond their organisational boundaries.

Chris Buttress, PwC partner and local government leader, said councils were now considering more radical options – from rethinking relationships with customers and communities and better use of digital technologies, to deeper collaboration with partners.

‘The business model of the public sector is changing rapidly as decision makers are considering what is the role of the public sector within a local area,’ Buttress said.

Nearly half of the respondents believe their council will be part of a combined authority in 2020, as the realisation grows that councils cannot operate in isolation to survive.

But despite the drive behind decentralisation, only a fifth agreed that their council would have significantly more powers and responsibilities by 2020.

Three-quarters of respondents also agreed that their focus should be on outcomes, rather than service delivery, but less than half knew how to make this a reality.

‘Local authorities have largely responded well to the budget gap of the last four years.  They are now anticipating having to do the same again, with less and less certainty of how to achieve this,’ Buttress said.

‘We have no doubt that the future business model for public services will change significantly in the next four years – and those leading the sector in localities will be the ones who will deliver this new model – changes won’t all necessarily be centrally driven.’

PwC said embracing the potential of digital and data analytics to transform services would be critical over the five years of the next parliament as would grasping the opportunities offered by decentralisation.

It also said economic growth was another key issue for local authorities, with many leaders and chief executives identifying the local economy as their number one priority for the next five years.

  • Judith Ugwumadu

    Judith Ugwumadu joined Public Finance International and Public Finance online as a reporter after stints at Financial Adviser, Global Security Finance and The Sunday Express. Currently, she writes about public finance, public services and economics.

    Follow her on @JudithUgwumadu_

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