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You can spend less and benefit local place

May 19th

George Osborne announced this week that he intends to immediately tackle the £163bn economic deficit with a proposed £6bn worth of cost cutting in public services. Although ministers promise not to damage front line services, this news is bound to strike a note of fear.

Now, I don’t know whether this level of cost cutting is possible – but somehow it has to be because this is just the tip of the iceberg – what I do know is, it is possible to spend less whilst benefitting local places. If all those accountable for public outcomes at a local level could establish the needs of local people, and look at the money that is currently being spent, it is entirely possible for them to organise themselves in such a way as to deliver the best value for money.

So what do you need to make this work?

  • Be outcomes driven by looking at local needs and targeting the approach that gives real results
  • Empower people at the local level, engage them around issues in their area
  • Have a co-ordinated, customer centric approach where all parties involved work together, removing traditionally segmented silo-working
  • Ensure excellent communication channels exist between parties at both the local and national level, to remove duplication, for example
  • Engage in mature dialogue that enables the identification and discussion about the trade-offs between organisations, to stop doing things and realise benefits across the system.

This is not a quick fix scenario. It will be hard work and the prizes won’t be felt immediately. It will be a challenge getting all parties to work together and, at times, it might be uncomfortable – it will require a level of trust, a clear framework and a commitment to make it work.

But put these measures in place and it is entirely possible to make savings in a way that’s purposeful and meaningful. It not only mitigates a lot of the pain and risk of cost cutting, but it genuinely enhances the outcome, making local places better. Total Place has shown us that it can be done. From our work on Total Place with the London Borough of Lewisham we have seen that the possibilities are considerable and there for the taking.

Let’s just hope that when George Osborne outlines his plans for the cuts next Monday he doesn’t pull the plug on manifesto pledges and bin localism. Getting spending decisions to be taken in the round at a local level looks like one of the best options the Government has, indeed, I’m not really sure they have another viable option.

This article is filed under: cost cutting, localism, partnership

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