Opportunities for the wise in a local world of change and crisis Nick Kilby, CEO
Local government is not an extension to our business, it is our business. Cratus has brought together a powerful cross-party team from the top of local government to provide insight and counsel to our clients as they navigate new and existing local government structures as well as the wider local public sector.
The public sector market is a risky one, but also one full of rewards. We know, we’ve lived it. Between us we have over 50 years’ direct experience within local government. Public / private contract failure can, and frequently does, result in intense media scrutiny and extraordinary share price drops for the private sector partner. Our team exists to prevent this.
The local public sector has for decades turned to the private sector for procurement of services and products to support the provision of essential services, from bin collections to care of our elderly, to place making and high street regeneration. The dramatic changes to funding for local authorities will forever change these relationships with the private sector, requiring a new way of working collaboratively to meet new expectations.
Devolution of power from central government means the commercial sector needs to renew its relationships with the local public sector. Some, such as banks, supermarkets and major retail chains have for many years turned away from their local roots, preferring to focus on lobbying Whitehall where power, influence and decisions were made. This is no longer effective. High street retailers and hospitality outlets for example face decisions made about business rates, planning and licensing which are taken locally with a direct impact on their bottom line.
Manufacturers who drive exports as well as sell into the domestic market once focused on lobbying central government to address their needs for infrastructure, skills training and investment. Increasingly, they have reprioritised their attention to Local Enterprise Partnerships. However, in city regions LEPs are likely to be superseded by Combined Authorities led by accountable, directly elected Mayors.
These new local public sector arrangements are being given additional powers by central government but in return are being left to resolve their own economic problems without the assistance of traditional revenue support grants. This is forcing them to follow an economic growth agenda. They need to grow their income from new business rate growth and council tax as well as look for new, innovative ways to fund and deliver local services.
Brexit will bring changes in regulations affecting every part of local services from procurement, waste management, environmental health and trading standards, through to public health and Adult and Children’s Care as regulations are changed over from European directives to UK law.
These power shifts and great uncertainties mean there has never been a more important time or greater opportunity for the private and public sectors to look at building genuine, meaningful and long-term partnerships that can strengthen local economies and communities and the daily services on which they rely.
Our world is local: Our value to you
We have invested considerable time and resources supporting the private sector in navigating the local public sector, unlike traditional central government centric agencies who focus on Westminster, Whitehall and Brussels.
Most major companies will have a public affairs role. Larger corporations will have a government affairs department and a few will have someone covering the local public sector. In our experience those who work in these roles have a background in Westminster working for Members of Parliament or as Ministerial Special Advisors. Few companies have real experience of local authorities that they can readily call on.
Business leaders are fast realising that this operating model is bust. Power is shifting from national to local. Public spending is shifting from national to local and economic growth is increasingly being decided locally and not by Ministers or Whitehall based civil servants. In the future, decisions businesses rely on will not be taken in Brussels or Westminster but in city regions and combined authorities throughout the country.
Our focus is also on supporting and working directly with the Leaders of local public services. They too are managing change and responding to new opportunities. These are often in areas where politicians and council officers are taking advantage of new freedoms for the first time and want external assistance during the early stages of implementing change.
Cratus has secured Mary Ney, former Chief Executive of the Royal Borough of Greenwich as our first Cratus Associate. Mary leads and advises on projects working with local authorities or other local public sector organisations drawing on the support of our political and operational leadership team.
The first such project was to undertake a strategic review of a district council and advise the council’s leadership team on the key areas that they needed to address. The team are working with other local authorities on a range of projects from full strategic reviews to supporting major regeneration projects requiring external investment and partnership. Indeed, our understanding of political sensitivities and priorities often complements the “transformation reviews” offered by leading management consultancies who sometimes fail to address the political consequences of all-organisational change.
This new dimension to our business increases our store of working knowledge of the inside of local authorities ensuring we are always the first to hear of changes that might affect the private sector there by complementing and enhancing what we can offer your organisation. “Our World is Local” is our strength and it can be your advantage.
This sets us apart in two crucial ways:
- The credibility we have within the local public sector. It is what gives us the edge and is how we add value to your business. Cratus has become a trusted partner to councils across the country owing to our commitment to the sector. Increasingly, local authorities approach us to discuss their needs and aspirations, looking to us to bring solutions. This gives our clients opportunities which would not otherwise be available.
- The experience of our leadership team in the local public sector which gives us unrivalled insight and the ability to offer both political and managerial expertise, as well as strong relationships we can draw on.