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Driving digital to generate additional revenues
Driving digital to generate additional revenues

Once again the landscape for local government has been thrown into flux. The EU referendum has left many leaders questioning how EU laws affecting local services will be replaced and whether EU regeneration funding previously allocated up to 2020 will still stand. All of which will be determined by the new Prime Minister and Minister for Communities and Local Government, both of whom have been in office for just a few weeks. Local authorities, and indeed all public services, face uncertain times ahead. But despite this, the need to transform and close the funding gap remains.

As we highlighted in our recent report, ‘The Commercial Imperative’, council leaders must set their sights on exploring commercial avenues to generate additional revenues and close the funding gap. Of course, generating revenues is not a new concept given the continued legacy of council tax, business rates and so on, but as our report highlighted these methods are not enough to ensure self-sustainability.

Local authorities must now go beyond these traditional methods and think radically to drive bigger impact. And digital strategy plays a huge part in this, already achieving significant cost savings by shifting services online and accessing new revenue streams.
For example, through the digital transformation of their services, the General Register Office of Northern Ireland was able to offer a new paid-for digital ancestry service. Because the service was online, it was able to reach a global audience. On average it achieves 15,000 orders per month from searches to over 9 million records. This created substantial new revenue streams that stretched beyond the departments usual geographic boundaries of Northern Ireland.

While this is impressive, there is much more that can be achieved within authorities across the UK. The group of local government leaders we brought together to discuss how to achieve a sustainable commercial model for The Commercial Imperative report, identified five digital strategies as being essential to success:

1. Outsourcing aspects of the business to external IT experts
2. Moving systems to the cloud
3. Big data, data analytics and business intelligence
4. Automated communications and workflows
5. Channel shift to digital by default and driving greater self-service by the public.

It is therefore these that I would encourage others to focus on. Because, while we cannot be sure how the rest of the year will unfold, we do know that driving digital will continue to create efficiencies and open up services to wider audiences.

Chris Ginnelly, Managing Director, Civica Digital Solutions