Smart working will help local government through the turbulence ahead

17 Nov 22

The Autumn Statement heralds difficult times, but councils will show the same determination they always have, writes partnership working expert and local authority trading company chief executive Justin Galliford.

Justin Galliford, chief executive of Norse Group

With the chancellor’s Autumn Statement ushering in a new era of austerity, the public sector finances are inevitably in for turbulent times and even greater budgetary pressures.

The economy is already contracting below pre-covid levels, and the Office for National Statistics recently disclosed a shrinking GDP; inflation is soaring and interest rates and the cost of living are rising sharply, almost certainly heralding a new recession as the winter months see the crisis grow deeper.

Even prior to the autumn statement, chancellor Jeremy Hunt had said: “There is a tough road ahead – one which will require extremely difficult decisions to restore confidence and economic stability. But to achieve long-term, sustainable growth, we need to grip inflation, balance the books and get debt falling. There is no other way.”

This statement appears to confirm that central government support will not come close to closing local government’s funding gap, and we must brace ourselves for several years of hardship.

I am under no illusion that planning and review meetings with our partner councils will, for some time to come, see robust discussions as to how we can jointly address all the issues that these difficult times present.

But manage them we will, through the same flexibility and operational agility that saw us survive, and even prosper, during the months of the pandemic.

We will redouble efforts to achieve cost efficiencies, and we will continue our successful development of the vital revenue-producing external business that our partnerships generate.

And, importantly, we will work through all the operational trials and financial difficulties together, hand-in-hand with our local authority partners, to ensure services and workforce job security are maintained, resources are most effectively deployed and finances are professionally managed.

There is a fundamental resilience in a partnership arrangement that, although it will not be a short or easy journey, gives us and our local authority partners long-term optimism and confidence that we will meet these financial challenges without having to compromise our ESG principles and wider responsibilities to society.

Justin Galliford is chief executive of Norse Group, the UK’s largest local authority trading company. The group is wholly owned by Norfolk County Council, and provides services primarily through its joint venture partnerships with councils across the UK. These include environmental and waste, highways, property services and care home provision.

  • Justin Galliford

    Chief executive of Norse Group. Wholly owned by Norfolk County Council, Norse’s turnover is over £350m. The company operates local authority partnerships across the UK, providing a wide range of services including waste and environmental, highways, FM, property consultancy and care homes.

Did you enjoy this article?