What Does UK Local
Government Need?
Tim Allen
23rd June 2014
A Challenging Context Demanding
(for Example):
Ingenuity, innovation and forward thinking / early warning systems.
Anticipation / prevention / managing ‘demand’: intervention now to lower
cost tomorrow.
New forms of organization / methods of communication and interaction /
ways of working.
Handling complexity: in problems / communities / inter-relationships / new
Appealing to the public as citizens rather than as consumers of services.
Sharing ideas and learning: the danger of insularity.
The Role of Knowledge and
McKinsey & Company (but ref CIPFA / Audit Commission / others:
‘Adopt a ‘disciplined and systematic approach to solving public sector
management problems that ‘favours the rational and analytic over the purely
ideological’ and be ‘willing to abandon tools and techniques that no longer
work’….. use better evidence for decision making’.
Goran Persson: Lessons from a Swedish Crisis (five cornerstones of
reform): ‘get a reality check’ – need thorough analysis / question every
conclusion and develop ‘a conviction’ that will withstand scrutiny by everyone
‘from professors to blue-collar workers’.
Knowledge Navigator
Changing cultures in both communities
Improving connectivity between / among the communities
Embedded research in local government
Seize some strategic opportunities to harness research 5
1: Changing Cultures
Connecting the disconnected requires more than one-off
interventions or exhortation so we recommend:
Local government leadership:
 LGA leadership powerful – promote research as an asset;
 Equip councils to make the most of the asset (evidence and
learning as part of Peer Review?)
 Role for Solace, the professions and professional bodies in
promoting awareness and use;
 Local authority access to good practice e.g. showcasing and
building on exemplarsand building capacity to use external
knowledge, e.g. through sharing across authorities;
 Potential role for Local Authorities Research & Intelligence
1. Changing Cultures contd.
More actively deploying the range of ESRC/Research
Council tools and instruments with focus and marketing
flair e.g.:
 Opportunities within current Knowledge Exchange
and Knowledge Transfer Partnership methodologies
 Studentships
 Impact Accelerators
 Navigator activity to help stimulate this / assess what
works (ref. our Report and Case Studies Paper).
1: Changing Cultures contd.
Developing / improving long-term relationships
Local government influence / input into Research Council
programmes, boards etc.
Research funder processes / instruments to identify local
government issues as one focus.
More systematic (and segmented) ways to access/exploit the
Greater emphasis in review processes on demonstrating local
government need.
Enhanced role for practitioner reviewers.
Where relevant, require demonstration and evidence of local
government engagement / impact.
2: Improving Connectivity
Research and local government need a modern space through
which to connect:
 ESRC Retail Data Knowledge Navigator has some lessons
parallels in the weak sector/research connectivity.
 A local government/research web enabled service as site a
space for:
As a research ‘dating’ space.
To showcase good practice.
For learning.
For broader research / research funder engagement
with the local government community.
 Access to research knowledge not just research reports
2: Improving Connectivity contd.
A ‘Local Government What Works? Centre’ (or equivalent):
Founded on the ‘Institutional’ logic of UK local government.
Complement to other centres / apply to local government functions not
covered by them.
Scope includes the ‘corporate’, ‘place-shaping’ and community planning
responsibilities, and problems that cross policy and functional
boundaries, and inter-organisational relationships & functions.
Exploit the ‘natural laboratory’ of UK local government to inform what
works in different places and why, and how lessons from research and
evidence can best be communicated and applied.
3: Embedded Research
Local Government needs:
Close and timely support at point of development and/or delivery
To address issues nearer to ‘real time’ with researchers engaged in problem
definition and in developing solutions, and feedback during the research.
For example, this research support could be a:
Gateway (‘portals’) to existing research knowledge and evidence;
Translator of research findings so they are available and accessible;
Animateur to help to identify research issues and sources of evidence; and
Impartial recorder of the ongoing delivery and development work.
 We think that this is potentially a ‘new’ instrument albeit drawing on practices
familiar to some; and which
 Is researcher delivered, but practitioner/researcher co-defined.
4: Seize Some Strategic
Opportunities to Harness
Benefits and learning from a programme (or programmes) at ‘scale’ on
strategically important area/s.
This should focus on high profile area/s of policy and practice and
demonstrate embedded research.
Transfer of responsibility for public health to local government is a
candidate: an appetite for evidence about what works, and linkages to social
care and other major programmes and problems at local level.
Other topic areas might benefit from a similar approach – for example on
troubled families, children’s services, & local government reform in Northern
Ireland and Wales.
Some Next Steps
1. Culture Change:
Contribute to ESRC strategic priorities review;
Engage research and local government audiences and systemise promoting
research exemplars / practice;
Design potential local government knowledge and evidence assessment tool;
Develop local government knowledge needs;
A research impact ‘toolkit’ and a guide for researchers to work with local
2. Connectivity: review What Works Centre further, but work up brokerage and
connectivity recommendations.
3. Embedded Research: develop how this might applied.
4. Strategic Investment: develop potential requirement.
5. Examine what might follow end of current programme.

What does UK Local Government Need