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Local authorities stretched further to meet cost cutting targets whilst maintaining services and supporting welfare reforms

Latest research from Civica also highlights a requirement to educate the industry about social communication channels and fears about the future Improving service delivery whilst cutting costs continues to be the biggest challenge facing the public sector (65%) Half of organisations are still working to address up to 25% of their funding gap for 2014/15 Technology seen as a priority to improve service delivery (67%) Most of those questioned said they would like to see a majority party in power after the next general election (62%)

18th February 2014, London: Research conducted by Civica, a market leader in specialist systems and business process services, has found that 65 per cent of local authorities are finding it harder to reach their cost cutting targets whilst maintaining service delivery this year, compared to last. Despite a freeze in budgets allowing for longer term planning (47%), twice as many decision-makers say that making financial savings is as important this year as last (2014: 63%; 2013: 31%), with improving service delivery and supporting citizens through the latest welfare changes also topping the priority list. The study, which questioned local government and social housing directors and managers at Civicas annual conference, revealed that half (51%) of organisations are still working to address up to 25% of their 2014/15 funding gap. The majority of respondents pointed to the role of technology as a key route to improving service delivery (67%). The role of technology The most popular technologies for improving efficiency and administration this year are agile and mobile working solutions (64%), moving customer-facing services online (59%), back office-systems into the cloud (50%) and using social media to engage residents (33%). These findings echo the sentiment within Civicas Changing Places how innovation and transformation is taking place in local government report released a few months ago with independent think-tank Localis. However, the research suggests there is still work to be done to encourage the use of relevant social communications channels. Just half (54%) are already using social media to engage both proactively and reactively with their audience, despite understanding its potential to increase engagement, lower costs and improve perception of local services. It seems many are being held back by worries that its not relevant for their audience (37%), security and/or data privacy barriers (36%), getting by-in from senior management and general lack of understanding and knowledge in their organisations (30%). Feelings about the future Seventy-two per cent of those questioned said they believed that 2015/16 may be the year that local authorities reach breaking point if additional proposed funding reductions go ahead. The prospect of these and potential changes at the next general election is making more organisations cautious

about making large, transformative changes to their services and processes (40%). Unsurprisingly, most of those questioned said they would like to see a majority party in power (62%). Bill Loughrey, managing director at Civica, commented on the findings: Local public services have already made significant efficiencies within their operations and, perhaps unsurprisingly, our research suggests they are finding it even harder to find further savings. Its clear that senior management recognise the need to change the way they operate and the crucial role of modern technology; particularly to support more agile and mobile working, a shift to lower cost self-service and more immediate social channels. As the year progresses we expect to see more organisations adopting disruptive IT-enhanced ways of working. This was also a major topic of discussion during Civicas conference in Manchester in January, to address the challenges, opportunities and pressures ahead. For more information on what was discussed and to read the Changing Places how innovation and transformation is taking place in local government report visit www.public-knowledge.co.uk

-EndsNotes to Editors: *About research Research undertaken by Brands2Life at the Civica annual conference in January 2014. The total sample size was 73 local government and social housing service directors and managers. About Civica Group Ltd The Civica Group (www.civica.co.uk) is an international market leader in specialist IT systems and business process services for the public sector and other related business sectors. Through experienced people who understand service delivery, the Group applies software, managed services and outsourcing to help customers streamline their activities. Civica supplies more than 2,000 organisations in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Canada and the USA, including more than 90per cent of the UKs local authorities. Press contacts: Clementine Stopford/Alex Hudaly Brands2Life 020 7592 1200 civica@brands2life.com