Public participation can cut cost of public service delivery says new report

24 April 2015

The public can make a bigger contribution to cut the cost of public services, according to a new report today from Northgate Public Services on People Power, which suggests looking at new ways to engage people and unlock potential savings.

The report comes at a time when public services continue to face a funding crisis and is based on research with government civil servants, public service bodies and the public. People Power finds strong agreement that the public can help cut costs and uncovers a range of policy initiatives designed to encourage a bigger contribution.

It also shows the public is willing to support public services. Research by Survation highlighted a wide range of activity today, from sharing crime alerts on social media through to volunteering in hospitals and running libraries, and found that more people are considering shorter-term contributions in future.

Key findings include:

  • Eighty four per cent of government civil servants agree that ‘people power’ can improve public services and 65% that it can cut costs. Savings were thought to come through a better understanding of local conditions that would support better targeting and prevention;

  • Both government and local public service organisations are considering a range of initiatives that would encourage a more active contribution from the public. These include promoting the use of cheaper online channels, considering services that could be taken over by communities and enabling the public to contribute to more accurate government information;

  • More people have shared crime or missing person alerts on social media than the number of special constables, magistrates and hospital visitors combined. People are more likely to consider shorter-term contributions in future, such as reporting local issues to the authorities, and ease of participation would encourage greater take up.

To realise the full potential of people power, the report recommends making it easy to contribute; focusing on local activity; encouraging two-way conversations; and looking at people power as a spectrum so that the full range of activity can be understood and encouraged.

Sue Holloway, Director of Services Strategy at Northgate Public Services, said:

“Volunteers have always helped to deliver better public services and the digital revolution is enabling new types of activity. People who re-tweet public service alerts are making a different but still valuable contribution and this offers huge untapped potential when budgets are under pressure. By looking at the full range of ‘people power’ we could create the right strategies to encourage it and deliver better and more cost-effective services in future.” 

Click to download the report – People Power – Cost-effective public participation, a guide to the issues