Published by: Digital by Default
Date: 28 Feb, 2018
Link to full article: www.digitalbydefaultnews.co.uk
Chris Smith, Head of Community at Kajima UK, discusses how local authorities can use technology to generate and protect revenues from real estate.
It is a challenging time for local authorities. The current environment of austerity and budget cuts means that they are dealing with growing demand for their services at a time of increasingly limited resources. Technology has been adopted in a number of industries facing similar challenges as a means of cutting costs and improving efficiencies. However, this trend has not yet been fully embraced in local government, where basic administrative tasks and services are still taking up valuable employee hours. Technology can help local authorities to not only protect strained revenue by bringing operational efficiencies and liberating employee time for more creative tasks, but actually generate revenue through more strategic use of its real estate. The way in which local authorities use and manage property assets is central to their ability to support best value service delivery.
In 2016 Local councils spent more than £1bn buying income-generating property assets such as shopping centres and business parks, when in fact, with minimal outlay, technology could be harnessed to maximise existing assets, for example by hiring-out unused space in community facilities such as town halls, community centres, libraries and school facilities for use by the community. Many local authorities already have this in place, but how efficient is the service and does it maximise the value of the asset?
The technology difference
Technology can make a huge difference in streamlining this process and reducing costs that might otherwise seem prohibitive. Online management systems can help by combining bookings administration, online invoicing and payments, and automated communication so that key functions are managed automatically with no additional administrative burden.
Schools, for example, often have significant amounts of redundant space, and utilising this space during out-of-hours’ time can be a welcome alternative source of revenue. Research suggests that if 10% of the UK’s 24,317 schools actively pursued opening their facilities for community use, the £103m deficit run by local authority schools could be virtually eradicated. Online lettings software such as BookingsPlus can help schools generate the revenue that they desperately need at a time when they are under pressure to deliver better results with fewer resources.
Local authorities are very price sensitive, and with good reason. This means that many local authorities are wary of the short-term investment that comes with adopting new technologies. However, the benefits they can reap following an initial investment ensures that long-term net savings are realised, helping local authorities become more efficient and financially stable for the future.
Introducing time-saving, revenue generating initiatives is not always popular within workplaces and can be seen as divisive by employees who are worried about their jobs. However, using technology in this way is not about replacing human expertise, it is about liberating authorities to focus on the right problems and drive efficiencies in how they work by automating the delivery of local services, and reducing costs. Changing this culture so that employees embrace these changes will ultimately lead to growth and expansion rather than cut backs and regression.
Local authorities should embrace the advantages that technology can bring, both for themselves and the broader community. Ultimately, investing in technology and the right software can help local authorities improve their back office efficiencies and generate an important additional source of revenue, at a time of intense pressure on their budgets.