Reshaping local government capability – for society and for the bottom line

As local government continues to meet the challenge of more years of austerity and savings, fresh thinking and new styles of working have become even more pressing. Significant change often happens when there is no other option - and although it can feel uncomfortable, or counter-intuitive, being open to new ideas that pull us away from our normal ways of thinking and working is vital to making transformation happen.

Local Government doesn’t always have the best track record when it comes to turning new ideas into sustainable transformation. It’s not that councils and their employees lack innovation or can’t achieve improvements and cost savings. They can – as evidenced by the £331 million of financial benefits to the public and public services during the 2011 Customer-Led Transformation programme under the direction of the LGDC and LGA.

But ultimately these savings largely come from single projects and initiatives. In order to reap the benefits more fully, local government needs to do what business is incentivised to do and undergo full transformation.

Structural overhaul has reached the end of the road

Local government has seen a number of reorganisations in the past, leaving little room for further exercises in ‘shifting the deckchairs’ to enhance services and achieve value for money.

Now, faced with stark choices about which services they can offer and which they cannot, there is a need for local government to analyse their organisational structure and operating models to transform long-term performance in a positive direction. Organisational transformation analysis should be an opportunity to include realistic appraisal on where the skills, knowledge and resource gaps are. In Local Government this can mean change programmes that start working within the ‘as-is’ culture, whilst subtly introducing new thinking and bringing operational staff along on a steady journey to avoid triggering a natural fight or flight response.

A culture of immovable process and risk aversion

Stakeholder management and fulfilment can be complex when those stakeholders come from a spectrum of social, economic and political backgrounds. This complexity can lead to the failsafe position of delivering tried and tested processes rather than the best service possible for the customer. It is not just customers who are affected by this rigid culture. Internally, Finance, HR and Procurement processes can become detached from the business, and risk aversion kicks in because accountability can always be answered by ‘well, we followed the approved process’.


While public sector organisations do not have the same competitive pressures as those in the private sector there are clear reasons for them to focus on the same issues and challenges faced by private sector businesses. From simple cost savings and efficiencies, to building optimism and engagement between people and government, it's time for fresh thinking, learning and improving based on trends in other sectors.

Our research into trends in both the public and private sectors has resulted in a set of research insights that includes recommendations for council leaders looking to implement change. Through our work with authorities and their leaders, we understand the critical elements needed to drive transformation in the sector. Our set of research insights focuses on three key areas:

Leadership - this paper looks at the unprecedented challenges facing leaders in local government and asks whether these new challenges need a new kind of leadership.

Business Transformation - This summary of some of the critical issues facing leaders of change in local government aims to help anyone facing transformation in the sector to consider some of the key issues.

Customer Experience - What customer experience lessons can local government take from the private sector? In a relationship of limited choice, can investing in improving the customer experience help councils make much-needed savings?

Browse our collection of reports here and please feel free to get in touch with any questions.