3 ways to transform public services

  • Local authorities are working with some of Britain’s largest social enterprises to deliver public services
  • The E3M Alchemy event brought together local authority commissioners, social enterprises and social investors to discuss innovative ways of working
  • Here, we look at three case studies that demonstrate bold approaches to commissioning and service delivery

Is there a better way of delivering public services? In this age of austerity and ever-increasing demand on services, this is a question that is exercising the minds of every local authority commissioner.

We cannot just be vending machines offering services and products. Our role is to solve challenges.”
Ana Majó, Digital Innovation Technical Manager, Barcelona City Council

It was also the focus of event E3M Alchemy this Autumn, which brought together public sector commissioners, social enterprise leaders and social investors, to discuss new approaches to commissioning and delivering services.

Zurich Municipal is a Supporting Partner of E3M, and the event gave us valuable insights into some of the challenges facing these sectors.

Here, we look at three alternative models for public service delivery that sparked interest at the E3M Alchemy event.

1. The Barcelona Open Challenge

Barcelona City Council invited organisations from across the globe to anonymously submit innovative solutions to six diverse challenges facing the city, from reducing bicycle thefts to tackling social isolation, and made a clear commitment at the outset to contract the winning solutions.

A total of 119 proposals were received, and the identity of the bidders was only revealed when five finalists were selected for each challenge. The anonymous bidding process aimed to encourage companies with no previous experience of city-level government contracts to submit their solutions. Of the six eventual winners, only three had previously worked with Barcelona City Council.

While there are challenges with an open procurement process such as this, including ensuring that it complies with European procurement regulations, Anna Majó, Barcelona City Council’s Digital Innovation Technical Manager, believes more local authorities should consider this approach.

“As governments, we cannot just be vending machines offering services and products,” she says. “Our role is to solve challenges.”

2. Sutton Council

In 2011, Sutton Council was faced with finding £74m of savings over eight years from its revenue budget.

Niall Bolger, Chief Executive of Sutton Council, says the authority was determined not to simply “salami slice” its services, and focussed instead on a new way of commissioning that would involve residents more closely and make more efficient use of local resources by working in partnership with neighbouring authorities.

This approach has included:

  • Initiating a local Commissioning Academy, in partnership with Kingston Council
  • Launching a Market Development Strategy, to support the local market and voluntary sector to meet residents’ future needs
  • Recruiting 96 Citizen Commissioners – volunteers who meet several times each month to help the council set its priorities and who are actively involved in every stage of the commissioning cycle.

Sutton Council has already made £43m of the revenue savings required by 2019.

3. Health and Wellbeing Limited Liability Partnership

Health and social care is an area where local authorities are facing a particularly challenging combination of reduced funding and rising demand for services.

The Health and Wellbeing Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) aims to offer local authority commissioners an alternative model for delivering health and social care services.

The LLP comprises nine charities and social enterprises that between them have a combined turnover of £33m, and which provide services ranging from therapy for mental health patients to support for young parents.

Scott Darraugh, chief executive of Social adVentures, a social enterprise that leads the LLP, says its structure gives smaller providers a better chance of winning contracts to provide health and wellbeing services, but also offers numerous benefits for local authority commissioners.

He says: “They benefit from having a single point of contact for contract management and they know that risk is shared across all the partner organisations. Our collaborative model also helps commissioners to achieve significant economies of scale.”

Understanding your long-term challenges

David Forster, Head of Risk Proposition, Zurich Municipal, says events such as E3M Alchemy help us to learn more about the short- and long-term challenges facing these sectors.

He adds: “The world of public services is changing so quickly, with new models of delivery and an end to the status quo.

“As an insurer, we live and die on whether we truly understand our customers – the challenges they face, the risks they have to deal with, the assets they need to insure and the way they go about their business – which is why events like these are so valuable.”