Is outsourcing public services really all about the money?

Ashfords LLP, a national provider of legal and professional services, has partnered with iGov Survey, an independent team of public sector experts, to produce an in-depth report into the outsourcing of public services across local government.

Many local authorities are bringing previously outsourced services back in-house - Ashfords' comprehensive and informative report examines why this is happening, and identifies what determines the success or failure of outsourcing a project.

The report shows:

  • 88% of participants are currently working with another local authority(ies) by way of shared services, other partnership working or a corporate joint venture agreement;
  • 36% of participants stated that services are mostly provided in-house. However 20% cited multiple supplier outsourcing; and
  • 19% have a shared service agreement in place with another local authority.

The research gives valuable insights into local government insourcing and outsourcing behaviours and shows:

  • approaches and attitudes towards the use of various types of arrangements, from shared service provision through to joint venture structures;
  • significant barriers or challenges to successful implementation; and
  • critical factors to success.

The decision makers from 129 local authorities highlighted the most important factors to the success of outsourcing which included; planning and structuring of the outsourcing arrangement, building relationships with the outsourcing partner, and clear methods of communication.

Elizabeth Gibson, Partner and head of Public Sector at Ashfords, commented: "At Ashfords we have been involved in public sector outsourcing projects for many years, and in our experience, there has been a significant shift away from a pure focus on price, to much more emphasis being placed on the quality and efficiency of service delivery."

"The aim of this research paper was to gain an in-depth understanding of outsourcing arrangements and to examine the reasons behind why some services are being brought back in house. We are pleased to have achieved this and hope that this report helps highlight the issues surrounding outsourcing across local government and how to make externalising arrangements work for local authorities in the future."

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