What does the future hold for UK councils?
Change is happening in the UK, and it's happening fast. One example on everyone's mind is Brexit. The negotiations may be long and arduous, but the last three years since the initial vote have passed rapidly. With this in mind, a lot is at stake for local government. Councils are thinking about the future, and they’re having to do it on their feet. What issues are they facing now that could be exacerbated over the next five or six years? Let’s take a moment to peer into our crystal ball and predict what the future may hold.
Changes to the population
The Office of National Statistics predicts the UK population will reach nearly 70m by 2025. Councils will have to accommodate this increase, as well as specific demographic shifts. Not only that, but the elderly will make up approximately 5.5m of the UK population by 2025. It is also estimated that between 2016 and 2026, 5.2 million people will immigrate long-term to the UK. These groups in particular have specific requirements that local councils must cater to.
Public sector cuts
‘Doing more for less’ is a mantra that the public sector has had little choice in adopting. The work councils do with already dwindling resources is applaudable. By 2025 however, it will be all the more challenging. The belt has been tightened on public spending year after year over the last decade. It's estimated that by 2025, there'll be up to £34bn in further spending cuts and tax rises.
A disconnect with the general public
People do not tend to have close relationships with their local council. Interaction is mostly on an ‘as needed’ basis, such as paying bills. People may pay these bills, but that doesn’t mean they see the immediate results. The onus is then on councils to build stronger relationships with the general public.
Going digital by 2025
In 2019, Britain is falling behind in the AI race. Last year it was announced that £300m would be put into AI research. If the UK emerges at the front of the pack by 2025, this is certain to impact local councils. Here are a handful of the processes that could be transformed by 2025:
- Applications for benefits
- Scheduling public transport and refuse collection
- Supplying parking permits
- Managing electoral registrations
- Providing licenses for local businesses
- Handing issues and returns for library books
Automating routine administrative tasks will put workers' skills to better use. They will be free to help members of the public with more complex issues. But this doesn’t mean that quality will fall by the wayside with routine tasks. Chatbots will instead handle queries both quickly and accurately. Aylesbury Vale District Council is a notable success story. They began using AI to analyse previous interactions with council residents. This reduced the response rate for queries from eight minutes to between three and five. Such a result will not only make for better service but will also save money. The Recruitment & Employment Confederation estimates automation could save the public sector £17 billion annually by 2030. So now we know what digital transformation can do for council workers by 2025. But what about members of the general public? How can their needs be better identified and solved?
Smarter decisions for better care
Groups of people require different levels of council assistance. This will have an impact across the range of services offered by councils, from education and employment to health and social care. Members of the public who are vulnerable or ‘at risk’ will often deal regularly with local authorities. Every interaction provides information about that person, and what their needs are. This forms the basis of initiatives using predictive analytics to provide better care. The University of Auckland developed a ‘predictive risk model’ to help identify at-risk children. Similar models are being trialled across Bristol, Westminster, and Manchester. This should help councils intervene earlier in providing families with social support services. The fact that people feel disconnected from their local council means that feedback from the public is often only given when prompted. A lot of helpful information, however, is already available. The Office of National Statistics tells us that there will be more elderly people by 2025. Therefore councils already have a head-start in what to prepare for. For example, this data can help them allocate funds for Disabled Facilities Grants, which finance adapting homes for assisted living.
Information at our fingertips
Back in 2010, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt made an astounding claim: every two days we create as much information as we did between the beginning of civilisation and 2003. The possibilities this creates for councils to understand their constituents by 2025, are an exciting prospect to say the least. It goes without saying that the future brings both opportunities and challenges. The opportunities are to be taken advantage of, but the challenges should be embraced. These challenges are what stimulate the growth of innovations such as artificial intelligence. Do you think artificial intelligence could prepare your company for 2025 and beyond? Start your learning journey with IntelAgent today. View our bank of Council related resources, or contact us today to book a demo.