Local government trends 2021
The year 2020 has confounded all expectations. Yet when we look back at the blog we wrote in late 2019 on our forecast for trends in local government, we’re surprised to see that a number of our predictions proved correct.
So, what did we forecast accurately? And what does the future of local government look like in 2021?
Last year’s forecast revisited
1. Digitally empowered workforce
Little did we know how accurate our crystal ball was when it came to this trend! The challenges facing local government and the public sector caused by the pandemic forced local authorities to switch their staff to home working wherever possible. Along with NHS staff, local government workers who kept services running, whether from home or on the frontline, are among the heroes of the Covid crisis. Thank you, everyone.
There’s no going back now – some degree of remote working is here to stay, helping staff achieve a happier work-life balance. Now, one of the top challenges for local government is that data security must remain high on the agenda, as new cyberthreats are emerging all the time.
2. Anything as a Service (XaaS)
We thought software, lone worker support and even counselling would be increasingly provided through cloud-based services. And, this has certainly come true.
3. Digital acceleration
We predicted improved digital skills and services, and this came true as the Covid crisis forced local authorities to adopt an omnichannel approach, making better use of data and introducing technological advances such as voice assistants and augmented intelligence.
However, only a minority of local authorities say they have fully digitalised their services, so there’s plenty of room for improvement in the coming years.
It was a safe bet to say this would be an issue in 2020, but nobody foresaw the current situation and the problems facing local government. The Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that councils were facing a £3.1bn funding gap as a result of the pandemic, due to the loss of revenue from things like business rates, and the increased demand for services. Some authorities are facing bankruptcy.
The Chancellor’s Spending Review in November 2020 included provision for a potential increase of 4.5% in council core spending power to support vital local services, and announced new funding for social care, among other measures. However, the Local Government Association has warned that public services will be under huge strain in the coming years.
5. Evolving ethical frameworks
Perhaps the pandemic has given us the opportunity to take a step back and think about our core principles? This was something we predicted would happen in 2020. One key area is transparency: as finances are becoming more squeezed, local authorities’ spending will come under increased scrutiny.
Our new predictions for 2021
1. Better risk and business continuity planning
Few organisations took the threat of pandemics seriously before 2020. Now, we all need to revisit our strategies and plans, and consider insurance policies to protect services from future disruption.
2. Driving economic recovery
The Government has announced a new £4bn ‘levelling up fund’ for local infrastructure projects. Now is the time to refocus services and build back better and greener. This means taking the opportunity to invest in walking and cycling rather than roads and cars; and tackling rough sleeping and poor provision of social housing, among many key concerns.
3. Covid vaccine rollout
It’s finally under way! While the NHS will lead, local authorities will also be key to its success, for example by helping to set up large vaccination centres.
That’s likely to dominate the first few months of 2021. Dare we hope for a return to something approaching normality from summer onwards?
However 2021 pans out, one thing is certain: it’s going to be another year of huge pressure for local authorities.
At Connect Assist, we aim to take some of that strain by offering outsourced contact centre services and digital service delivery for your council. Contact us today to learn more about our existing clients in the public sector and discuss how we can work together to make 2021 a far easier year than 2020.