Outsourcing might not always be the best option for the public sector, but retaining in-house services in areas like IT can allow authorities to be more responsive, the head of the Local Government Association has warned.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Sir Merrick Cockell called into question the belief that local authorities should be looking to “outsource everything”.
There were some services better performed by the private sector, but the quality of other services run by councils with the “tightest budgets” had been “underestimated”.
In-house services could enable the public sector to adapt to changing environments, he said.
“If you’ve got IT in-house, actually you can be very responsive to change. If you’ve got IT outsourced … every time you want to change it, you have to renegotiate… and that takes time,” he told the newspaper.
A failure from contractor G4S to provide sufficient security guards for the Olympics has been a recent highlight of problems with outsourcing.
But other examples of failed projects exist throughout local government.
And in central government, warnings have emerged that too much may have already been outsourced. Chris Chant, a senior official in the Cabinet Office said in April that Whitehall had “outsourced all sorts of things which we should never have”.
This, he told Publicservice.co.uk included a “nuts” approach of some public sector organisations using external companies to produce their IT strategy – leaving a capability gap that was now urgently needed. And some IT contracts had left government “completely inflexible”.