In a recent report, the New Local Government Network (NLGN) concluded that local authorities should use public motivation to help them become more productive.
Essentially, it calls on them to understand what their residents want, and then use this information to launch innovative and experimental pilot projects on a small scale to test new ideas, without the fear of failure.
Key to its conclusions was that the sector should feel more confident to take risks and share examples of what does and doesn’t work, especially if they fail. The idea of sharing failures is to prevent similar mistakes being repeated again by other councils.
The key for future growth, and getting maximum impact out of any spending, lies in this transparency and collaboration.
Lucy Terry, senior researcher at NLGN said: “Councils can potentially increase their productivity and their impact by working with others. We found lots of ways in which councils are already taking a fresh, innovative approach to collaboration and who they partner with.
“But doing something new requires experimentation – and councils need to be able to test what works and be honest about cases where something doesn’t have an impact. This will ultimately benefit the whole of the sector.”
The NLGN is a sector think-tank, and the report, Producing the Goods – Collaboration as the Next Frontier of Productivity, was carried out with Norse Group and PPL.
While not strictly aimed at housing and building projects, this report reflects a wider philosophy starting to emerge in local authorities. This should lead to a more collaborative reimagining of how councils meet their residents’ needs.
At Graven Hill, Cherwell District Council is already demonstrating how this innovation can be applied to custom build homes. And in Middlesbrough, Middlehaven has first hand experience of how a pilot project can become something else.
The important thing is to share the successes and failures to help identify best practice. Hopefully, the new regional hubs that some authorities are working to create for custom build will be examples of how local authorities can evolve and work in new ways.