10 May 2024

Local authorities: Why digital transformation matters

A lady with her arms crossed, smiling.

2024/25 is the year for UK local authorities to drive forward technology to deliver efficiency savings.

As we enter the new financial year, it seems to me that we are entering a new phase of digital transformation within UK local authorities. Many local councils that I am talking to are coming to the realisation that achieving operational efficiency through software is not only desirable, but essential, if they are to continue providing any meaningful service to their residents.  

A fresh perspective

Budgetary pressures are resulting in a dwindling pool of personnel and, unless those people want to spend all of their time on menial tasks (like double-keying data, inputting forms, and handling laborious processes), it is crucial that changes are made, particularly in the world of HR. 

Many leaders mistakenly dismiss HR as a purely administrative role, but this has never truly been the case. HR has the capacity to add an incredible amount of value to a local authority, helping drive its strategic movements and provide real value to residents. 

However, without digital transformation, the function often gets left behind. The day-to-day gets swamped by data wrangling and manual, paper-based processes. 

Often, this means there’s simply no time left in a day to unleash the full potential of the HR team. Many are willing to accept this as ‘how it’s always been done,’ but I feel if local authorities want to stay up-to-date, they need to work on upgrading. 

Don't accept how it's always been

Based on recent conversations with my local authority clients, these are the reasons why I think there’s never been a more pressing time to push forwards with technology adoption: 

Budget Pressures: This is nothing new, but the pressure of budgetary constraints coupled with increasing demand for public services is putting greater strain on limited resources. Last year saw some high-profile examples of Councils failing to balance the books. Optimising operational processes and reducing administrative overheads can alleviate the strain and help local authorities keep providing key services. 

Digital transformation: Now that we’ve moved on from the extraordinary times of the COVID pandemic, digital transformation strategies are really coming to the fore. Digital solutions promise to modernise operations and improve delivery of key services. Some organisations have struggled to turn digital goals into reality and some Councils have made costly and notorious mistakes. However, I sense that 2024/25 will herald real progress on the digital agenda. The successful projects will be those that take a pragmatic view of the existing digital landscape and quickly deliver on improving efficiency. 

Talent acquisition and retention: Whilst there are signs that the fight for talent is easing in the UK, competition in key sectors, care services in particular, remains high. Councils need to work hard to attract and retain key people. Effective HR software can provide better tools for talent acquisition, performance management and succession planning, whilst also monitoring diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Final thoughts

2024/25 will undoubtedly be a challenge for many local authorities, but I am speaking to many forward-thinking leaders who are increasingly seeing new technology as the primary way of adapting to these pressures. What changes do you think we’ll see? 


Nicola Herrick

Nicola is an Account Director at MHR Public Sector responsible for managing Enterprise Accounts with over 18 years’ experience. Nicola specialises in transformation.HR technology, analytics and change management.

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