The Institute for Fiscal Studies have predicted that budget cuts will continue until 2020 resulting in local government needing to find more efficient ways to generate more value for money. In 2014/15 local government have suffered 40 percent cuts to its budget putting pressure on their finances. Meanwhile, the demand on local services have been increasing as a result of recession, the ageing population and the increasing numbers of 0-5 year olds. Furthermore, Welfare Reforms and other specialist programmes place further demands on resources, it’s no longer business as usual.
Throughout the nation, councils have been working and jointly investing in the necessary technology infrastructure with central government. This has seen a rise in faster broadband connections and the PSN (Public Services Network) to support the adoption of more open source cloud – based technology within the sector for better information sharing.
The negative effects and challenges brought about by budget cuts at a council level have trickled down to the housing sector. The housing sector is now expected to transform their businesses to meet these new challenges.
With the financial challenges faced by councils, business as usual is no longer an option for the housing sector. With less finances at it’s disposal, the housing sector have an obligation to ensure its customers are able to access key services in the most economic and user-friendly way. Housing also plays a vital role in ensuring adequate partnership working with other public, private and third sector for a positive citizen-focused service delivery outcome.
With the need for transformation to meet these challenges, it is integral that the sector as a whole start to recognise the opportunities offered by technology and digital tools with the aim of delivering more cost – efficient reliable services to citizens and customers alike.
There is a plethora of technology that can help the housing sector transform the way it delivers services and ensure operational efficiency to meet demands.
Mobile Working and the Cloud.
Mobile working platforms have allowed for workforces to be more productive. With the introduction of video-conferencing, route planning tools and Instant messaging on the move, it has become easier for remote workers to communicate and get the information they need for quick on the ground decision making.
Most modern applications are now web based and are being served on the cloud. This makes it easier for the housing workforce to access information remotely. By allowing access to vital customer information to your mobile workforce, not only does it empower the housing workforce to make timely decisions, but it improves service delivery for customers.
The cloud also presents an opportunity to acquire key IT Services as and when required instead of investing in a fixed infrastructure cost which is both expensive to buy and maintain. Cloud technology presents a huge opportunity for housing and local councils to showcase major cost savings.
With the ability to capture data more simply with easy to use web-based applications, there is now an opportunity for the housing sector to mine data for better decision making. Big data represents a huge opportunity around understanding customers’ priorities so resources can be better allocated to deliver key services.
Furthermore, joined-up working supported by technology allows for a more joined up data set which can enable local councils, other public and third sector organisations achieve more targeted service delivery while being cost efficient.
A recent study by the Policy Exchange on the Big Data Opportunity for the UK public sector concludes that overall efficiency of government operations through cutting edge operational performance could in time save the public sector up to £16 billion to £33 billion per year. The study can be found here.