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Press Release

Research report: local authorities’ strategies for cuts

by Interserve Press Office | Jun 06, 2011

Local authorities are getting to grips with the scale of the efficiency savings they need to make - but 40 per cent do not yet have strategies in place to achieve the spending cuts required.

On average councils are expecting to make cuts of 20 per cent by 2014, with one-third anticipating 25 per cent or more and one in ten targeting over 30 per cent.

Although they acknowledge that this is likely to mean radical change in the way services are delivered, in many cases the plans for effecting the savings are either still being created or have not been approved.

Recent research among chief executives and directors in local authorities has revealed:

  • Councils expect to increase outsourcing levels by 70%, moving from 20% average outsourcing levels in 2011 to 34% by 2014.
  • 84% of councils believe outsourcing has been successful in achieving savings, however only 58% believe it is critical for them to achieve their targets.
  • 44% of councils stated political concerns as a barrier to outsourcing; 28% identified a lack of capacity and 27% a lack of skills for delivering change.
  • 75% of councils believe the citizen’s voice will be fundamental to future delivery models and 76% believe more local control will enhance local authorities’ ability to meet their targets.
  • 63% of councils believe that partnership is the most important factor in a public private relationship; lowest cost doesn’t make the top five.
  • 25% of councils don’t expect to meet their savings targets fully by 2014 and 40% have no approved strategy in place to achieve them.
  • Only 8% of councils look to a consultant to start their procurement process, whilst 20% look internally to local government best practice rather than wider service-specific expertise.

Interserve commissioned YouGovStone to survey chief executives and directors in 101 local authorities to find out how well positioned they are to cope with the 2014 budget challenge.

Adrian Ringrose, Interserve’s Chief Executive, commented:
“This research identifies the severity of the 2014 financial challenge and highlights a reticence among local authorities to tackle some of the larger and more publicly-focused areas of spend. Delivering savings to the extent necessary will require more radical change than simply increasing outsourcing levels.

“Councils clearly indicate that they are interested in procuring best-value solutions rather than adopting a purely cost-based approach, yet they don’t appear willing to undertake a full review of their service delivery. The opportunity exists for them to make fundamental reforms for the benefit of their communities; ultimately, the future is going to be defined by partnerships between the public, private and third sectors working together to help redefine delivery and instigate a positive change.”

Mark Fox, Chief Executive at the Business Services Association, said:“Interserve’s important research has allowed us to understand better the attitudes towards outsourcing of councils up and down the country. Although we have long suspected that local officials - those who are charged with finding spending efficiencies - recognise the value of outsourcing, this research has confirmed it. It is clear now that the greatest barrier to reform that we face is political preconceptions.

“Attitudes do seem to be changing, however, perhaps based on the strong record of success the private sector has had. We want real partnerships with local communities, and we are adamant that a public service ethos is not just the preserve of the public sector. Our industry is working hard for people around the country, collecting their rubbish, sweeping their streets and tending to their parks. At a time when councils are facing deep financial challenges we can do it for less money and, very often, to a far higher standard.”

Verbatim comments from the report included: “Outsourcing is not always an efficient tool if the objective is solely to make cost savings. The greater benefits lie in a combination of cost savings, risk transfer from the public sector to the external provider, and budget certainty / budget stabilisation within the framework provided by a contract. This combination is what best rewards and protects public services provided by private or voluntary sector providers.” Chief Executive, metropolitan borough council

“The current cuts are unmanageable within the service delivery envelope in which we operate at the moment. There will have to be some fairly dramatic cuts to services, including essential services to accommodate the cuts. Government will have to get used to this concept - we have been cutting back over the years and it is impossible to keep cutting back and deliver the same level of service.” Chief Executive, borough council.

For the full report please email

– Ends –

For further information please contact:

Hannah Simpkins 
External Marketing Manager
020 7902 2000

Peter Haddock
Edson Evers
01785 255146

About Interserve

Interserve's vision is to be the Trusted Partner of all our stakeholders. We are one of the world’s foremost support services and construction companies, operating in the public and private sectors in the UK and internationally. We offer advice, design, construction and facilities management services for society's infrastructure and provide a range of plant and equipment in specialist fields. Interserve is based in the UK. It has revenue of £1.9 billion and a workforce of nearly 50,000 people worldwide. 

General website:

About the research

YouGovStone interviewed one member of the senior executive team at 101 of the UK’s 407 councils across England, Scotland and Wales. Respondents were interviewed between 24 January and 9 March 2011, completing the survey either online or by telephone. The interviews have had a small weighting applied to ensure they are a representative sample of GB councils, by council type, region and political leadership.

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