Wednesday 30 September 2009
Chair: Tony Travers, Greater London Group
The next five years are likely to involve a climate of fiscal austerity, in which government will inevitably have to do more for less. In these difficult times, a common approach may be to freeze new developments and put innovations on to the back shelf. However, as the Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell has recently indicated this is exactly the wrong thing to do - the fiscal pressures are too severe to be sat out, and the challenges of achieving modern public services too urgent.
This session inaugurates our 'Innovating out of Recession' series, being run with the Institute for Government, with special reference to local government - focusing on how councils can seize the opportunities to make long-delayed changes and through innovation do more for less.
This seminar begins with Peter Gilroy looking at the diverse measures that one leading council, Kent, has taken to innovate internally. Through staff training and development, and through changing the ways in which it delivers services and bringing in changes like one stop shops and telehealth approaches, Kent has made its resources stretch further and increased its effectiveness.
Then Irene Lucas discusses innovation in local government from her perspective in her new role as Director General of Local Government Regeneration at the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Finally Patrick Dunleavy looks at a small service, libraries, but one clearly demonstrating the need for innovation in the face of acute 'digital era' and technology era challenges. Long run library customer numbers have been falling for a long time. Radical new developments (like e-books, Google Books and downloading of music) and new commercial trends (especially the falling real price of some books) create a fundamental challenge for future patterns of services use. If public libraries are not to become ever more redisualized, how can they innovate back to effectiveness?