Local government still has much to do

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With efficiency still continuing to drive the agenda at the local government level, authorities are becoming increasingly shrewd about how they spend their money.

Take Craven District Council and Harrogate Borough Council, for example, which undertook a joint procurement exercise when purchasing their CRM systems and expect to save £100,000 as a result of pooling their skills and buying power.

Leeds City Council, meanwhile, intends to consolidate seven existing contact centres into a single multimedia IP-based one as a means of cutting costs. The call centre will employ 250 agents and 70 back-office staff to handle more than 30,000 incoming calls per week.

But it isn’t stopping there. Although the concept of shared services has been around for years, it has gained increasing impetus following the Gershon review in 2004, which set cost reduction targets of 2.5 per cent for every government body by 2008. This led central government to set up a shared services team last year, headed by David Myers, to draw up plans for delivery.

And it appears that contact centres and revenue and benefits departments may be the first to go down this route. Liverpool City Council, for example, has already set up a large call centre to handle citizens’ queries on a range of services, but intends to sell spare capacity on to smaller district councils.

This particular initiative was set up as a joint venture with BT and staff remain employed by the council, which is an interesting twist on the outsourcing model.

Other shared service centres, however, are expected to work on a more regional basis, catering to the needs of citizens in the north east of England, for example, or south Wales.

Interestingly though, according to public sector researcher, Kable, CRM and call centre projects are likely to account for the largest chunk of public authorities’ IT budget in the year ahead.

Almost 50 per cent of those surveyed by the organisation plan to introduce a new CRM initiative at an average cost of £1.4 million, while almost 25 per cent intend to initiate a new call centre project with average expenditure expected to be around £2.4 million a pop.

For the 70 per cent that have already introduced a CRM system, however, the main focus is adopting a coherent approach to multi-channel management to ensure that communication is consistent whether citizens contact their council using email, the telephone or happen to just drop in to an office.

So it seems that, in this case at least, 2006 will be very much a year of continuing what’s already been started. But there is still much to do.

Cath Everett
Guest News Editor
[email protected]

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