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17 September 2012 | Adam Leach
Council leaders have said making greater use of private and voluntary sector expertise is the greatest benefit of outsourcing services.
Catalyst Councils, a report published by the think tank Localis and outsourcing provider Capita Symonds, asked 73 council leaders what they saw as the biggest benefits provided by a move to increase the commissioning of services. It found 68.5 per cent of respondents saw making use of external expertise as the greatest advantage. Just over half, 53.5 per cent, believed it could make services more innovative, while 45.2 per cent foresaw it increasing efficency.
The report found the majority of councils see an urgent need to adopt an approach that provides more freedom and flexibility, with 60.3 per cent saying it was definitely needed and 26 per cent saying it was needed ideally. Just 12.3 per cent said they probably didn’t need greater freedom or flexibility, while 1.4 per cent said they definitely didn’t need to change.
Alex Thomson, chief executive of Localis, said greater involvement from the private and voluntary sectors in providing services could work if every party did their bit.
“I’m confident that if everyone is willing to play their part, the public sector to be more receptive to new ideas, the voluntary sector more open to working in collaborative alliances, and the private sector more of a risk sharing partner, then we’ve got a decent shot at continuing to enjoy high quality public services in the years to come,” he said in a statement.
While the report appears to show a strong appetite among council leaders to increase the use of commissioning, it also revealed the top concerns in the area. The most significant challenge is the skills and capacity of commissioners with 49.3 identifying it as a challenge. Other challenges identified were reduced flexibility (42.5 per cent), unaligned priorities between the council and its providers (35.6 per cent) and performance related issues (38.4 per cent).
When asked if there were any services that would need to continue to be provided by the council, 43.8 per cent said planning and 32.9 per cent said children’s social care. Although 38.4 per cent said there were no services that could not be outsourced. Just 2.7 per cent said highways maintenance needed to remain in-house.