Beyond the narrative of doom?

A short reflection on new figures revealed by LGC today which reinforce the prevailing narrative of doom for those working in local councils. The LGC survey reports that a fifth of senior managers believe their council’s workforce will shrink by more than 35% by 2020. To achieve savings, the research suggests that 51% of councils intend to outsource more of their services in future, and 58% are moving towards becoming a commissioning council.

The figures suggest that, as we found from our own research, perma-austerity is driving councils to work in different ways with 8 in 10 saying they would deliver services in future through closer partnerships with other authorities, and two thirds saying they would work more closely with NHS bodies.

While it is encouraging to learn that councils are planning to work in different ways; moving beyond the salami slicing approach of the early years of austerity, the biggest challenge will be how to help those working in the public sector to thrive and flourish in this environment. In the midst of so much change, (and loss), how can we best support the workforce to be resilient, and to develop the new skills and new roles that they will need to be effective in this environment?

Our research has identified some of the different skills and roles that might be needed, but those working in the public sector have told us that there needs to be a new narrative for the workforce – a new vision that moves beyond the narrative of doom and loss, with clarify around expectations, opportunities and support for development. Those tasked with commissioning or delivering public services in whatever form will need space and time for reflection, with peer to peer support and action learning to help them achieve better outcomes for residents in very different ways from the the past.

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