Local Government 2020: A New Kind of Council

Public Sector

We think it’s time to introduce some fresh thinking to deliver a new style of local government as the industry continues to meet the challenge of another 5 years of savings. So we’ve checked out trends in other sectors and come up with four actions that councils can take to deliver sure fire results and create new look councils for 2020. We also present feedback from councils on where they think they are now. 



The result - a more motivated workforce with the skills, attitude and ability to innovate and drive on-going change over time. Gallup research has shown that the most motivated teams are not those that receive the biggest bonuses or the most money but 'those that have the opportunity to do what they do best at work every day’. These teams are 50% more likely to have low employee turnover

There are other benefits as well:

  • Reduction in voluntary turnover. For example, Adobe had a reduction in voluntary turnover of 30% when it ditched its performance appraisal system.

  • Freeing up a whole lot of staff time. Deloitte have reportedly saved 2 million hours a year just by ditching their annual performance ratings for 17,000 employees (that’s 117 hours per employee) while Adobe saved 80,000 hours of managers time during annual appraisals (7.2 hours per employee).

  • Reducing IT costs. Many companies are also moving to using a combination of smarter, smaller targeted micro-services rather than retaining out of date and costly legacy HR systems. Maintenance and evolution is quicker and easier. Tools are more engaging for employees, which sees usage stats soar. In some companies, there are even employees building their own tools.

  • Moving away from requirements to outcomes. Requirements are often poorly articulated and build in additional cost as part of the implementation as things change. Take a pick and mix approach and do not rely on one solution for everything.

Do these things and you will be on the way to having IT that’s:

  • Simpler – You will have strategic relationships with suppliers, shorter contracts and a unified roadmap and portfolio as well as common operating group infrastructure and single data sources.

  • Better – User focused with real time performance data. A shared culture of improvement across the organisation and more joined up approach. There will also be new capabilities and new opportunities for talented people in the organisation.

  • Cheaper – Lean automated processes which eradicate duplication. Do it once – everyone benefits.

And if you want to take a glimpse into the future check out this Spotify video: https://vimeo.com/85490944, Part 2: https://vimeo.com/94950270 to see agile next generation in action.


Making a successful transition in IT to support wider organisational change include:

  • Parking those legacy systems that are fixed and opaque. Don’t ditch them but let them run their course while you implement digital solutions alongside them.
  • Having IT that is ‘built to change’ using a test it and see approach. For example, the Government Digital Strategy which is available for all to use follows a format of discovery, alpha, beta, live to implementing new IT. It also recognises that the IT you use will need to continue to develop and change.
  • Establishing cross-functional teams who understand the end to end process. More often than not customers are involved in making these changes. It also means a move to shorter contracts centred on outcomes rather than requirements.
  • Developing technical expertise and an architecture that supports flexible solutions for users based around digital delivery, software as a service, and collaborative working within the organisation and with others.



In local government there are huge opportunities to better use data to accelerate improvements and deliver savings. Fast forward to 2020 and standard datasets (if they really are needed) should be automated. Real time data dashboards that alert you to the unexpected would be a bonus. Get that sorted and there are endless opportunities to use rich data sources:

  • To provide insights - An analysis of child deaths in Florida was undertaken to identify baseline risk drivers for all child deaths. These valuable insights enable improved case monitoring and proactive intervention of at-risk children in state care.

  • To accelerate outcomes – One London borough developed a marketing strategy for adoption and fostering targeted primarily at finding homes for teenagers often with needs. The Council used national datasets on adoption combined with customer segmentation data, to identify the groups in the Borough most likely to want to adopt children in this cohort, resulting in quicker and more successful placements.

  • For better predictive analysis – Workforce analytics tools and techniques are being used increasingly in the private sector to enable companies to act and better align workforce with targeted business outcomes. Recent projects undertaken by GarnerHaines have realised a staff cost saving of up to 10% without removing jobs, using analytics to combat issues such as high attrition and absence, and tracking progress over time to ensure delivery. Analytical approaches also help to de-risk transformation and target spend on initiatives where HR and the business will get the biggest impact.


Taking another look at business processes in the context of the user experience as part of an end to end customer journey, could drive out further immediate and longer term savings in a jaded local government sector. Many change programmes in local government today have been very inward looking with a largely internal interpretation of customer need; taking an outside-in look at how you operate provides a new lens to further shape service provision and drive digital change.

Using a customer experience approach could add enormous value as Councils work with partners to develop integrated services, such as in adult social care. This provides a great opportunity to develop an understanding of the customer journey to shape their future experience. It can also help to overcome duplication of effort between sectors, clarify roles and responsibilities and define digital channels in going forward. Additionally, customer experience can also be used to shape future structures and define new capability needs. Finally, it is a great way of engaging with other partners.


We took the opportunity to get feedback on progress against these four areas from Senior Managers attending the Local Government Strategy Forum in April 2016.

Some Councils have made great strides by fully implementing changes in one or more of the areas we've talked about here. But but we’re yet to see an example of a Council that is delighting customers on a daily basis, maintaining services and continuing to drive down spend across all services.

Increasingly Councils are acting more like businesses but there’s lots more than can be done. Taking a fresh look at what you are doing and acting like a business will not only accelerate savings but win hearts and minds, and you could even have a little fun along the way!


North Highland is a global consulting firm with a twist. We bring big ideas and challenge the norm. We work with our clients, not at them. We deliver value in a way that others cannot, through our seamlessly integrated offerings. And, we have fun doing it.

Aileen Carlisle

O: +44 207 812 6460

M: +44 7976 740 083


Sean O' Haire

O: +44 207 812 6460

M: +44 7753 618 547


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