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Demand Management: The Challenge of Sustainable Public Services

Public services are seeing a generational challenge of rising demand and declining resources. Local authorities in England face a £14.4bn black hole in funding, with expenditure rising by £7.4bn and budgets being cut by £7bn between 2010 and 2020. 

With these trends set to continue for the foreseeable future, and with press reports predicting that services we have taken for granted - from arts and culture to street lighting - will have to end in order to maintain statutory services such as care for the elderly and vulnerable children, many local authorities could be forgiven for believing that they now find themselves in the business of managed decline. All this is taking place in an economic and social context which is far from rosy, with fragile growth and declining living standards adding further pressures to public services.

If public service bodies, including local authorities, don’t actively respond to this new reality, they risk finding their ability to act in the future severely constrained. They have already done a great deal to adjust to new circumstances, making significant savings and efficiencies mainly through supply side reforms. But the limits of such reforms are being reached. We need a new approach.

This RSA project is working in partnership with The Economic and Social Research Council, The LGA, iMPOWER and Collaborate.