Agilisys, IT and business software and services provider across local and central government, has developed a three-part series advising how the public sector might use digital to deliver transformation and meet the prioritised outcomes outlined in the recently launched spending review.
This, the third in the series of insights from the Agilisys Transformation team, examines how the digital space can help growth across a community.
If you missed them, you can read the first two parts of the series here:
Part 3 – Growth: Welfare economics, employment and enterprise
Leeanna Pitt, Senior Transformation Consultant at Agilisys
The country’s political narrative has been keenly focused on austerity to balance the budget, reduce the deficit and encourage the UK’s books back in the black for an extended period of time. While this narrative continues with the recent announcement that there will be a further £12billion worth of cuts to welfare spending, there is – however – a counter narrative developing in the recent spending review: Growth.
There are two sides to the scales when trying to balance the budget. Welfare economics – the carrot and the stick – are a keen focus, not only to deter citizens to stay dependent on a welfare system, but to promote, advocate and encourage growth. Incentives such as ‘earn to learn’, the wider roll out of the living wage and raising the Employment Allowance by £1,000 to £3,000, all support small businesses and charities to create jobs, focusing on the ‘carrot’ of delivering growth through enterprise and employment.
Local government has a fundamental role to play in stimulating this growth by providing the infrastructure to enable a locality to develop. The incentives outlined in the spending review, along with increasing power through devolution, means local authorities now have the capability and control they need to stimulate an area’s local economy. The delivery of this stimuli and support for growth must be approached intelligently to maximise resources and effectiveness; the digital channel, a currently underutilised value opportunity, is the mechanism for this transformation journey.
It’s not just about the traditional service delivery of building homes, cleaning streets and filling schools, in 2015 the digital space can be utilised as a key enabler for local enterprise and development. Stimulating the economy through understanding the behavioural economics of welfare and growth, along with value optimisation opportunities, becomes critical to local authority success.
If devolution is working to enable local government to enable growth, the economy improves – schools perform better, people are more employable, there are more start-up businesses and corporation enterprise creating more jobs. There is a reduction in the reliance on public services, a more affluent area supports a stronger housing market, there is less reliance on social housing and there is a more stimulated housing development plan.
The GDP of an area, therefore, becomes more than an indicator of monetary worth, but of how well the infrastructure of a place is performing in enabling its citizens to flourish. Growth through localism as the purpose for devolution means an area’s economy can fundamentally be seen as the ‘key performance indicator’ for the social-economic wellbeing of its residents. As Lord Heseltine told delegates at the recent Local Government Association annual conference in Harrogate, “Never mind the cuts – grasp devolution”.
Some local Council Chief Executives argue that improving the economy in order to provide a better ‘whole place’ to residents to improve wellbeing, is the key function of a local authority. All services could be seen through this lens – you clean the streets so shoppers want to visit high streets, you fill pot holes so the transport infrastructure supports growth, you deliver pest services to ensure people want to live and work in an area. All services support growth. The more people are part of the ‘virtuous circle’ of growth, the more people are employed. If people are employed, statistically they’re likely to have better public health outcomes, be more independent and live better lives. The fewer will be dependent on resource intensive ‘social safety net’ services such as children’s and adult social care.
Going digital enables council to engage with this cycle: they can better connect with schools and the education sector – all of whom are online – to identify and connect with school leavers to direct them to employment or apprenticeship opportunities. They can connect with the private sector, utilising high traffic authority sites to promote new start-up businesses in the area, supporting enterprise in the ‘offline world’. They can leverage the highest traffic to their website’s jobs page to encourage citizens to explore employment opportunities across a ‘whole place’, using geo-zones to ensure relevant and targeted messaging. By utilising digital as a value opportunity, councils can secure the future of the economy in an area by reaching and supporting citizens at a key stage of transition in their lives.
But councils need tools to be able to do this. Front end software tools connect up disparate sites and networks, shape online user behaviour and use data and behaviour analytics to drive conversion, take up and personalised messing targeting. Council’s must understand customer needs holistically and map their resources across on and offline networks to deliver intelligent growth and community engagement. Devolution of power to a ‘place’ can be used as the catalyst for authorities to understand and grasp the power of their online networks, and utilise these as a mechanism to deliver targeted offline growth through digital value opportunities.
Growth is perhaps the key theme, ambition and metric in this year’s summer budget and spending review. The public sector has never before had such a legislative, fiscal or technological platform to enable the delivery of this ambition. Understanding how and where authorities can stimulate growth in the offline world, through online value optimisation will be key to delivering the growth needed for localities to thrive.
Read the first in the series: Devolution: Place as a platform
Read the second in the series: Productivity: Digital as a force multiplier
Working for both the public and private sector, Agilisys holds deep domain expertise delivering transformational services, in particular within local and central government, through a suite of citizen-centric technology products and centres of delivery excellence around the UK.
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