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  • Matt Turner

Local Government: Sooner Safer Happier for Stockport mbc (I)

Chapter 1

For many years, all across the UK, local governments have been working against all odds to survive in an environment that can only be described as challenging. The 2010-15 government resulted in a series of cuts to local authority budgets and since then funding has continued to fall. Whilst demands for critical services increase at an ever-accelerating pace, finances have been constrained in an almost equal and opposite manner.

Not only must the rising complexity of delivering things, like children and adult social care within severe economic restrictions, be met, but the symptoms of macro-level challenges – such as global climate change and inequality, cannot be ignored where they manifest at a local level…

…and I haven’t even said the C word yet!

According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, local authorities suffered an £8 billion financial impact in the first six months of the Covid-19 pandemic. This came from higher spending on services provided by local authorities (including social care and housing) and loss of income (due to lower tax receipts and business activity).

My relationship with Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, one of Greater Manchester’s 10 local government bodies, began in 2016 when I helped deliver their multiaward winning “Digital by Design” transformation programme.

My contribution, back then, began in IT Service & Operations, showing people how to adopt and adapt Lean and Agile practices of service delivery and improvement. Of course, all government is completely service oriented so it didn’t take long for my advice and expertise to be requested elsewhere in the organisation. This gave me the wonderful opportunity to work with social care workers, town planners, the borough treasury, clinical commissioning groups, and education services. All of whom benefitted from the introduction to transparent, collaborative, cross functional and data enabled improvement techniques. Many of which were already used to great effect in very specific ways, in very specific teams, but had never been applied in a wider context to innovate better outcomes.

As a proud Mancunian (and I hope adopted Stopfordian!) I’m very grateful and excited to be invited back to SMBC and to be entrusted to share the challenges of meeting the demands listed at the top of this post. I look forward to sharing the Sooner, Safer, Happier ethos, principles & practices and helping this fantastic Radically Digital Stockport deliver the services its residents and visitors demand and deserve.

At Sooner, Safer, Happier we are determined to make a positive impact, not only on the world of work, but on the world in general. To take effect on a global scale we understand the need to have an effect on the local scale; our motto, “Think Big, Start Small, Learn Fast” is especially applicable here, in helping one local borough create models for success that can be replicated (in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous economic and political landscape) across other local boroughs, across the nation and beyond, we hope to change the fortunes and prospects of many citizens far and wide.

Sooner, Safer, Happier and SMBC also share a greater desire to impact beyond our individual reach. At SSH we are creating a growing global community of shared learning and free content, similarly Stockport Council are founding signatories of the Local Digital Declaration and open source their digital capabilities so that they can be reused by other organisations. Both our organisations frequently share our learning experiences and SMBC have regularly opened their doors so that others can see what they have achieved in these years of continuous transformation, and how they have achieved it. Their Open Days have not only focused on the digital tools they have created and employed but also on the cultural change that underpins everything they do.

In this spirit, I will be regularly publishing blog posts about the shared learning ourselves at Sooner Safer Happier and our friends at SMBC have experienced during our time together. We hope you find it interesting and beneficial, and we look forward to hearing if you feel inspired and encouraged by what we share.

by Matt Turner, 11/10/22


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