Spiralling costs, shrinking budgets and an ever diminishing supply of affordable housing has brought the London Housing market to the brink of crisis. But, as they say, a problem shared is a problem halved. That is the view of four London Boroughs who have come together to make up the WREN Group. Working in isolation they are at the mercy of a market who play Councils off against each other to maximise profits. Yet coming together as a collective has allowed for a power shift and it can now be the Councils who dictate the terms of the relationship. Collaboration brings a synergy. A creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts; maybe collaboration can make the positive difference that councils have been looking for?
The benefits of a collaborative approach are easy to see – sharing resources generates efficiencies and economies of scale, which in turn reduce costs. But there is more to it than just making savings. With the ever increasing demand on public services, Local Authorities are simply unable to deliver the essential public services needed by their citizens. Yet through collaborating with other organisations, Local Authorities can continue to deliver better outcomes from their processes.
We have seen this approach work extremely successfully in the relationship Birmingham City Council has with its Service User Group. The Council works in partnership with its citizens, the people who actually consume the services offered, to develop a commissioning strategy that best meets their needs. By including Service Users in the decision making process, the Council has been able to show how its approach ultimately drives a better quality of care from the market. By working with the service user, the council is delivering services and processes that the end users actually want, can use and will benefit from. And this happens first time, meaning less time and money are wasted producing the wrong thing.
Collaboration can also add real value when Local Authorities work together to share markets and processes. Historically, genuine collaboration between Local Authorities has been rare. Collective decision making, contrasting agendas and the logistical challenge of co-ordinating multiple authorities have proven formidable barriers to collaboration.
More and more Local Authorities are recognising the increased influence they can wield through joining to commission services.
A collective approach gives authorities access to much more diverse markets and gives far greater information and visibility, making the management of these markets a much simpler task.
The work adam has done with WREN Housing Solutions is a perfect example of the benefits of Council Collaboration. WREN Housing Solutions is made up of four London Boroughs (Enfield, Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest) who have come together to address the housing crisis. Traditionally Councils compete to obtain houses in what is a very challenging market. However, working together has allowed the four Boroughs to combine resources and knowledge to create a single market that can be managed as one. Working with the adam platform, WREN Housing Solutions has developed a more diverse, more responsive market that is capable of delivering against their collective goals.
We know that there is a gap in funding for the Public Sector; we also know that this is an issue that will not be changing any time soon. So, for me, it is time for Authorities to start looking at what they can do differently. It is time to innovate and look at the problem from a different angle. How can you make your current budget work harder? I am certain collaboration between all sectors will become more common to help Councils meet the obligations they have to deliver essential services to their citizens. Collaboration is not always easy. It takes effort and a genuine desire to make it work from all parties. However, done right, the benefits on offer are too great to overlook.