Local government faces a funding gap of £5.8 billion by 2019/20. At the launch of NLGN’s latest research report Tomorrow’s Places, Theo Blackwell, Councillor at LB Camden, stated “Technology will help us balance the books if we do it in the right way”.
The report recommends that councils embrace social innovation and collaboration to support the sustainable delivery of connected communities that people want to live, work and play in. At the launch on Monday 20 March, Lord Kerslake emphasised the enormity of the opportunity for local authorities to improve local places and the need for partnership, direct delivery and leadership to maximise the potential for building great places.
Whilst it is unquestionable that technology can fundamentally change the way that places work, change needs the right mindset and behaviours to become transformational. Lord Kerslake urged senior leadership within local government to set aside natural competitive instincts to embrace collaboration and shared learning across the public and private sector.
The report shares many excellent examples of the ways in which smart technology is already being used across the UK and further afield to improve the lives of citizens and their communities but it recognises that delivering tomorrow’s places is not just about direct delivery – procurement and partnership are equally important.
The report recommends that councils adopt more creative and flexible procurement focused on place-led outcomes; the use of innovation partnerships to utilise the skill in partner organisations, and greater collaboration between authorities to deliver solutions which work more effectively at scale. But, what does this look like in practice?
At ENGIE, we are very fortunate to work in partnership with forward thinking local authorities who have embraced a dynamic approach to procurement that goes beyond traditional facilities management. ENGIE’s award winning partnership with North East Lincolnshire Council is an excellent example of how a partnership can continually evolve for the benefit of both parties. A comprehensive urban and economic regeneration programme, this innovation partnership has delivered £395m of inward investment and nearly 3,000 jobs in the last six years with plans for the next six years to extract the best from the market.
Incremental partnerships are another mechanism highlighted in the research. ENGIE has worked in partnership with Cheshire West and Chester Council to form a joint venture company to deliver customer and integrated workplace management services across the Council’s estate. As part of the initial 10 year partnership, over 300 Council employees have transferred to the new company. ENGIE has committed to investing £3 million in the Council’s IT infrastructure to improve and extend online access to council services. The partnership is developing plans for a community interest company that will reinvest a percentage of the profits into learning and development in the local community.
Smart infrastructure will be another key feature of tomorrow’s places and the potential of decentralised energy is clearly showcased by the low carbon network at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. ENGIE is a provider of integrated energy and facilities services within the Park, with additional supply of low carbon energy to surrounding communities. The underlying ethos of this contract is its long-term and transformational partnership that encompasses a diverse range of services including a connected ‘smart park’ using digital dashboard technology. The Olympic Park District Energy Scheme designed, financed, constructed and now operated by ENGIE represents over £100m investment, which will be recouped through the sale of heating, cooling and electricity under a 40 year concession agreement. The network saves an estimated 11,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, compared to traditional heating and cooling plants.
There are undoubtedly challenges in engendering change and transformation in local government – or in any organisation. One of the discussion points raised at the launch was how to ensure the right skills are in place to cope with the challenges of building tomorrow’s places. Manjeet Gill, Chief Executive, West Lindsey District Council believes it requires three key ingredients; enabling change, agile leadership and ensuring the current workforce is taken on the innovation journey.
When ENGIE embarked on the Robotic Process Automation programme at North Tyneside Council in 2014, a key decision was to set up a Centre of Excellence to ensure we had the systems and structures in place to roll out the technology at scale. Alongside leadership, clear vision and values, we insisted on a learning culture and staff training with the opportunity for all staff to gain a ‘Digital Passport’, ensuring we can continue to accelerate our own digital transformation. Rather than being perceived as a threat, the new technology has become a support mechanism releasing staff time to focus on value-add, customer facing roles.
Transformation isn’t easy but as highlighted in the research and our own experience, collaboration will allow us to work in partnership to make what can seem an insurmountable task much more manageable and successful in the long term – so let’s collaborate to build tomorrow’s places today.
If you would like to discuss collaboration, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +44 (0) 7794 212 083. You can see more examples of ENGIE’s innovation partnerships with local authorities on the ENGIE website.