The (economic) times are a-changing. Here’s how Local Authorities and the Third Sector can keep up.
With the current economic climate changing on an almost daily basis, the pressure is on for virtually every business organisation on the planet to keep pace.
But for Local Authorities and Third Sector organisations, it’s even more important to have the right management and financial structures in place as their razor sharp margins and recent budget slashes mean that every decision could bring huge consequences.
A report published in October 2011 by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) examined the impact of public sector cuts on the third sector by carrying out research into both the Local Authorities and voluntary and community (VCOs), nationwide.
The outcomes of the report highlighted that VCOs generally ‘recognise that councils have varying financial commitments, projects and styles of working. This means that their allocation to the sector will inevitably vary’.
The report emphasised that even with a reduction in funding, councils can still maintain ‘strong and positive relationships’ with VCOs by introducing innovative and creative measures.
Advice to councils by the NCVO is to ‘do their bit to alleviate the strain on the sector by putting resources in place to help affected organisations adapt to changes to their funding’. This does not mean councils need incur huge costs, but putting such resources in place are likely to have ‘far reaching effects within the VCS’.
NCVO has encouraged the development of positive practices to build trusting relationships and ultimately deliver better services. This can then be ‘used to build closer ties and better partnership working between Councils and the VCO. NCVO say that ‘this is of benefit to both sectors and is also likely to lead to more cohesive communities’.
According to the report, here’s the advice that Local Authorities and the Third sector must follow if they want to successfully ride out the biggest economic shifts.
Enabling effective communication and ensuring robust communication channels are in place is strongly recommended by the NCVO, National Audit Office’s decommissioning guidance (July, 2011) and the Compact Voice. In their report (October, 2011), NCVO have suggested that ‘giving the VCO a single point of contact within a Council can help smaller organisations feel included and supported’.
Offer in-kind support
This could be offering VCOs use of meeting rooms in council offices without charge. It could be a more structured arrangement of sharing resources such as IT servers or office space with local organisations.
Skill-up the sector
NCVO have recommended that it is important for Councils to understand the need to skill up the sector and that they demonstrate this. The ‘unlocked potential of the VCO’ means that by working in partnership with the sector, the local authority will likely to be more efficient in the long run and also benefit the community.
Encourage partnerships between organisations
Recommendations from the NCVO report show that ‘VCOs can work together to increase efficiency and reduce duplication in the sector’. Local authorities can be instrumental and bring together groups. This can be done through the creation of a voluntary sector forum, or working with a local Compact working group, giving organisations in the third sector an opportunity to voice their views.
Organisations in challenging economic times, will be adjusting their financial plans and these may co-inside with changes to Local Authority budgets. Councils can work with VCOs in a productive way to suggest the least disruptive ways of managing budgets for the sector.
But that’s not all…
In addition to following through on this advice, there are external resources that both Local Authorities and VCOs can call on to help establish or strengthen a sustainable way forward.
For example, using a strategic management service like ours to help with future planning does not mean that huge costs need to be incurred. After all, think about the potential return on your investment of using the right skills and expertise. It’s all about the choices you make, within your overall plans and strategy. Being creative and more innovative means that results can be achieved. Given even more limited resources and finances, you need to be making the right choices and taking the right decisions, because…
“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”
- Peter Drucker
So, whether you’re a Local Authority or a VCO, we can help, guide and support your management team towards being much more innovative, and help you put a range of innovation processes in place which can ultimately protect your financial health. Get in touch now and make the most of our experience – and our advice.