The announcement that Lambeth is seeking to become a “John Lewis Council” in contrast to the concept of EasyCouncil that has been associated with Barnet, means that there is a clear choice emerging in local government. David Cameron’s proposal for public sector staff to be allowed to apply to set up a co-operative is clearly also relevant.
What this debate may mean is that some of the positive recommendations of the Quirk Review are implemented as this Blog has recommended in the past.
But the big issue is whether the two choices outlined here will actually resonate with all local people or will many people in local communities actually feel left out from this debate?
The Demos report State of Trust identified three ways in which people tend to relate primarily with their Council:
- Decision oriented
- Service oriented
- Person oriented
We broadly agree with this as it accords with the Values based segmentation research that we have done.
We can see how the John Lewis Council model will appeal to those who have intrinsic motivations and are decision oriented?
We can also see how the Easy Council model will appeal to those who have extrinsic motivations and service oriented?
The big questions is whether any of those models will actually reach out to up to one in three of the population who from our research are likely to think in terms of safety and security and put far more value on personal interactions with their Council? Themes relevant to them are less about “John Lewis” or “EasyCouncil” and more about services that are “rooted”, “local”, “safe” and “secure”.
In other words, before a local authority adopts any delivery model it needs to understand the nature of all its service users and whether that model will appeal to their values.
Perhaps the most effective approach for Council’s in developing new delivery models and forms of co-production is to recognise that they need to understand all their customer/client segments and provide a real choice of personal interaction. Not everybody will want to upload information and interact with a local authority either online or through a call centre.The crucial thing is understand in more detail who these people are likely to be in future and develop value for money ways of engaging with them. A failure to do so could lead to lower levels of trust in public services from some disaffected sections of the community which could damage local community cohesion.
The debate on the future of local government and other public sector service delivery is likely to continue and we will return to this in more detail in the coming months.
Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company