With budgeting, the only certainty is that nothing is certain

December 4, 2019   By Martin Forbes, Strategic Director (Local Government), Local Partnerships

Local authorities experience considerable difficulties as they budget to keep vital services going whilst facing uncertainty about their future finances, and this is exacerbated when they are unsure when a longer-term settlement can be achieved. There is a risk that local authorities will be unable to do more than tread water. Where there is a will, capacity and imagination, adapting and reforming budgetary processes can still help catalyse transformation.

This issue is being widely discussed in the media. For example, Mike Burton, Editorial Director of The MJ, said “Uncertainty over spending settlements has long been a bugbear of local government which…also encourages inefficiency as it prevents long-term planning”. [19 September 2019].

I absolutely agree. It is hugely important that local government retains its longer-term focus and ability for innovative, creative thinking to achieve progress quickly when stability returns. It is also important that it preserves its collegiate and collaborative culture to continue the mutual support, learning and information sharing for which it is renowned and which has helped it through austerity.

The NLGN’s innovation exchanges provide a valuable ‘safe space’ in which to share what works, lessons learned and signposting to colleagues and councils who can provide further help. At Local Partnerships we are committed to sharing the insights and learning that we gather from supporting local authorities across the country on a wide range of complex and often unique projects and programmes. We find great value in being an NLGN member. It gives us the opportunity both to contribute our experiences from the work in which we are involved and, more importantly, to learn from others.

We were delighted to host an innovation exchange on Budgeting for Impact. It was a fascinating and stimulating day, demonstrating that the sector is continuing to benefit from quality commercial thinking and innovation despite the pressures placed on us by uncertainty.

The Budgeting for Impact innovation exchange report provides a valuable reference for those contemplating the role finance and budgeting can play in transforming organisations and the outcomes councils deliver for residents and businesses in their areas.

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