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Ten ideas for change: Local government

intrapreneurshipschoolcroppedThe difficult challenges facing local government are also an opportunity to do things differently. It’s not an easy route but many councils are but innovating their way to a new future. Here’s ten of the best ideas for change in local government:

1. Embed innovation and leadership skills within a council: At the time when they need to be most innovative many councils are struggling to dedicate the time and resources to change. Monmouthshire Council has created an intrapreneurship school to allow its staff the chance to take time out of their day-to-day roles to think more creatively. FutureGov has created an innovation lab in partnership with Surrey Council. Called Shift, it is an ongoing design process to identify local priorities and prototype solutions. Devon Council held a month of events earlier this year to allow staff to become more creative while Oldham Council sent its councillors on a specially created local leadership course.

2. Create or join forces with energy companies: What better way to take control of local energy supplies than by setting up an energy company? That’s what Woking Council did in 1999. Through Thameswey Energy the council has adopted green energy technologies and radically reduced its energy consumption, saving thousands of pounds each year. Stoke Council has set out the ambitious goal of making the city energy self-sufficient and has set up a joint venture vehicle with a local energy company.

3. Use technology to redesign public services around people: Tyze is an online tool that brings together all of the people involved in the lives of someone with care needs. It’s been successful in Canada and is currently being trialled by local authorities and housing associations in the UK. Similarly Patchwork from FutureGov joins up the team of practitioners working with a vulnerable child or family.

4. Invest in local people: Jim McMahon, the leader of Oldham Council, has created an investment framework for the town, including a job guarantee for young people, and is using the assets already in the town – its land banks and social capital – to co-create a brighter future. ‘Oldham belongs to its people. The primary responsibility comes from them. We all need to roll our sleeves up and do better’, he said.

5. Pay employees a living wage: As people struggle to deal with the rising cost of living, councils are leading the way by signing up to a living wage for all employees and encouraging the private sector to do the same. The list of those accredited by the Living Wage Foundation is growing rapidly.

rotherhamready6. Develop a culture of enterprise: Rotherham Council’s vision is to ensure its young people have the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century economy by embedding enterprise within the curriculum of schools and colleges. Its Rotherham Ready project has helped hundreds of youth businesses get off the ground and led to the city being named the most enterprising place in Britain in 2010.

7. Help local business: Northamptonshire Council made a loan to Silverstone to keep 22,000 high-value engineering jobs in the county, the interest on which is now helping the council pay for children’s services. In the Liverpool City region a Skills for Growth Bank backed by the local enterprise partnership offers local businesses funding for skills projects.

8. Put local people and the local economy at the heart of commissioning: Co-operative approaches to commissioning prioritise social value, not just cost, and put citizens and co-production at the heart. Co-operative councils are embedding social value and corporate social responsibility into tendering processes, which means that local organisations committed to the area and to local employment and volunteering are more likely to be preferred. Some co-operative councils are using the commissioning process to build community resilience by, for example, working with local bus providers to reduce fares.

9. Tackle the rise of loan sharks: Glasgow Council and partners set up a community development finance institution Scotcash to help provide access to mainstream financial services and halt the rise of high-cost payday lenders. Recently the council has pledged to give every young person in the city a credit union account.

10. Apply to the Public Service Launchpad: The Public Service Launchpad is a new programme that aims to build a movement for innovation in local public services – particularly from those inside the sector. It offers a scholarship programme and support to bring early stage ideas to life. Find out more here.

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