Transforming local government with Enterprise Service Management

The spending constraints that local authorities have felt across the UK in recent years are really starting to hit home. SIGOMA figures have found that real-terms spending power for English local authorities in 2024/25 is over 18% lower than it was in 2010/11 – and this is filtering through to the services the public use every day. According to the Local Government Association, two-thirds of councils will have to make cutbacks this year in areas such as refuse collection, road repairs and leisure facilities.

Making the problem worse is the perception that limited budgets hinder their ability to offer competitive compensation for top talent. This means that they have to rely on highly expensive contractors instead, which squeezes budgets even further. And even though the pandemic and the cost of living crisis has put councils under even more pressure, the expectation on councils to deliver good-quality, dependable services remains high.

No stone unturned in cutting costs

The financial and staffing situation that local authorities find themselves in is unprecedented. The County Councils Network has found that its members were expected to overspend by nearly £650 million in 2023/24, and at the same time, total council staff headcount in England has reduced by over 30% since 2012. Those who remain are often held back by manual-heavy processes and inefficiency as councils aren’t able to invest in digital transformation.

Because of this, councils are pursuing three main initiatives to cut costs:

  • Selling or leasing underutilised assets like office buildings or surplus land
  • Reducing contractor spend through insourcing for permanent roles
  • Streamlining processes and adopting cost-saving technology

Why Enterprise Service Management is the answer

The last of these three is where the most surprising savings can be found, and where Enterprise Service Management (ESM) has huge potential for councils that want to take the inefficiency out of their processes and embrace all the possibilities of automation. It takes the established principles of IT service management and applies them across all business functions, from Human Resources and Facilities to Marketing and Finance. This not only improves the speed and quality of service delivery – and the productivity of teams with limited headcount and resources – but it improves transparency, too. 

There is a huge range of use cases for ESM in a local government context, including:

  • Streamlining shared service mailboxes and request processes
  • Digitising paper-based processes in areas such as HR and Facilities
  • Automating public-facing services like permit applications
  • Enhancing employee onboarding through automated documentation and training
  • Processing disciplinary procedures with standardised documentation and auditing
  • Delivering secure, anonymous channels for whistleblowers

What does the future hold for local authorities and ESM?

The good news for local authorities is that they have plenty of flexibility when it comes to adopting ESM. They can choose to deploy fully-managed services, or self-operated plug-and-play solutions, depending on their financial and operational priorities.

But in any case, the growth of ESM in this sector will play a leading role in helping local authorities become truly digital-first, eventually encompassing the full range of digital-related services that they deliver. Automated, integrated workflows will help them break down operational silos, modernise service delivery, streamline processes, drive internal facility, and improve public satisfaction. At a time when councils are increasingly expected to do a lot more with a lot less, ESM stands out as a big part of the answer.

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