Making strategic use of GIS to drive cost savings
Confronted with the need to make multi-million pound savings, Cornwall Council is making strategic use of Esri’s ArcGIS platform to help identify and implement a wide range of cost reduction initiatives. At the same time, its use of GIS helps it to protect vital public services and deliver new programmes for families in need.
ArcGIS provides evidence to support decisions about where to make economies in public services
The council has a greater understanding of how assets can be shared and optimised between partners
Better quality data helps the council to participate in government schemes and deliver multi-agency support for local people
Councils across the UK have been severely affected by successive years of austerity and aggressive cuts in funding by Central Government. Local authorities are having to make tough decisions about reducing public services while finding new, more economical ways to meet the needs of citizens. The challenge is felt acutely in Cornwall where, over the four-year period 2015-2019, the unitary authority has to reduce its annual revenue operating budget in real terms by 25%.
Finding ways to save money on this vast scale is always going to be tough, but the target is particularly challenging for Cornwall Council due to its recent history. Six years ago, the former county council merged with five district and one borough council to form the new unitary authority and obvious opportunities to streamline and optimise services were capitalised on at that time. Consequently, Cornwall Council now needs to re-examine its services in almost forensic detail and be creative to uncover additional, less evident economies. At the same time, it has to maintain a high standard of service for its citizens, many of whom live in remote, rural locations.
ArcGIS is playing an active role in helping Cornwall Council to achieve its cost reduction target
Elaine Bennett – GIS Team Leader at Cornwall Council
The Geographic Information Systems (GIS) team at Cornwall Council rose to this challenge. Working with multiple services, the team began to use its GIS technology and skills to analyse and investigate a range of service areas where potential cost savings might be made.
Cornwall Council has standardised on Esri GIS technology and has an ongoing Enterprise Licence Agreement with Esri UK. It is currently in the process of upgrading its older Esri GIS solutions and migrating them to Esri’s latest ArcGIS platform. At the heart of the Council’s GIS environment is a central ‘Geostore’, which consolidates 300 spatial data sets and makes them accessible to all employees via a suite of desktop, server, intranet and recently mobile GIS solutions. The Council also makes extensive use of ArcGIS to deliver local information to the general public via web mapping applications.
In the first six months of 2015 alone, ArcGIS has been used to support the implementation or investigation of many different cost reduction schemes
Elaine Bennett – GIS Team Leader at Cornwall Council
“ArcGIS is playing an active role in helping Cornwall Council to achieve its cost reduction target,” said Elaine Bennett, the Council’s GIS Team Leader. “In the first six months of 2015 alone, ArcGIS has been used to support the implementation or investigation of many different cost reduction schemes.”
Reshaping the mobile library provision
The GIS team used ArcGIS desktop to analyse the sites of static libraries, routes of mobile libraries, typical travel distances and the locations of library users including, in particular, house-bound borrowers. The intelligence that it gathered from ArcGIS was then submitted to Cornwall Council’s Cabinet and used as evidence to help inform decision making. The Council has since implemented plans to reshape library provision in the county, in an initiative which will cut mobile library costs by 50%, while retaining the service and supporting micro libraries in rural communities.
Optimising the government estate
In line with the Government’s Estate Strategy (2013), published by the Cabinet Office, Cornwall Council has used ArcGIS to map the locations and key attributes of its property assets and those of its public sector partners. It is now using this insight to collaborate on strategic estate management. This shared approach provides a platform for co-location and integrated service provision; reducing costs as well as freeing surplus land and property for disposal and regeneration.
Delivering proactive family support
In another high profile initiative, Cornwall Council used ArcGIS to assign unique property reference numbers (UPRNs), which are a prerequisite for participation in the Government’s ‘Troubled Families’ programme, an initiative launched by the Prime Minister to improve support for families with multiple and complex challenges. Under phase 1 of the programme, Government figures put the number of ‘Troubled Families’ in Cornwall at 1,270, but using data gained from ArcGIS , Cornwall Council identified a larger number. The program is now moving into phase 2, and the UPRNs will now help to identify a further 4,000+ families who are eligible for additional support. By intervening to give these families better and faster multi-agency support, the Council expects to make significant savings.
Reducing the cost of citizen contact
Recently, Cornwall Council has used ArcGIS and Ordnance Survey data to upgrade its web-based ‘My Area’ service, an online service that helps encourage citizens to self-serve information, rather than phone the call centre. The Council estimates that if it can convert 15% of its annual telephone enquiries to web enquiries using My Area, it will reduce calls by over 125,000 per annum.