New research from two leading local government think tanks has found that whilst 93% of local councils are reporting cuts to street scene and public realm budgets there is still and urgent need for councils to adopt different approaches to cope with the budget cuts.
In ‘Park Life, Street Life: Managing demand in the public realm’ researchers from APSE and NLGN argue that councils could save money by reducing demand on services like litter-picking, by using behaviour change tools and techniques. The research finds that whilst such tools are used in other sectors, such as retail and online businesses, their use in a public sector context is limited – but adopting these approaches could help to generate real savings for hard-pressed council services. Whilst councils can rely on enforcement action, including fines, this is often a costly approach as even more resources are needed to pursue offenders and take action.
NLGN director Simon Parker said:
“There is a real danger that budget cuts will force cash strapped councils to rely on charges and fines to keep their areas clean and green. But there is a better way forward. Leading local authorities are innovating to persuade people to drop less litter in the first place, and persuading communities and businesses to take more responsibility for the local area.”
Speaking at the launch of the report at the APSE Annual Seminar 2015 APSE Chief Executive Paul O’Brien said ‘This report shows that as well as the emphasis on public realm services focussing on the most efficient way of cleaning up after irresponsible behaviour, such as dog fouling and littering, we should also be making the switch to using scientifically proven tools and techniques to change the way the public responds to the local environment in the first place.
O’Brien added “We are not suggesting that cuts to public realm can be simply managed away. Cuts in these services remain deeply damaging. However as an alternative to salami slicing services we need councils to be much more innovative about tackling the demand side of the public services equation.”
Examples in the report show how councils have been able to deliver cost savings and cleaner streets without resorting to enforcement action:
The research drew upon data from a range of sources including APSE’s State of the Market survey in Street Scene Services and APSE performance networks data as well as in-depth case study interviews with councils who have trialled or adopted behaviour change strategies.
Notes for editors:
APSE is the Association for Public Service Excellence a not-for-profit local government body working with over 250 councils across the UK.
APSE commissioned the research report from NLGN (New Local Government Network).
APSE provides expert advice on frontline service delivery issues for local authorities including environmental services and public realm.
NLGN is an independent think tank and collaborative network of leading edge local authorities and dynamic private sector thinkers.
To arrange for interview of press copy of the report please contact Mo Baines, APSE, Head of Communication and Coordination on firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 07971 843515 or contact Claire Mansfield, NLGN, Head of Research, at email@example.com or 020 7148 4601.