Chapter 8

Case Study - St Helens MBC

The pandemic has prompted St Helens MBC on Merseyside to move to a localities-based approach to delivering services, a transition that is being very much driven by data and technology, argues assistant chief executive Rob Huntington.“

Organisationally, we’re no longer sit-ting in St Helens town centre expecting all our customers to come and visit us; what we need to do, therefore, is go out to our residents. So, we’re now focusing on the delivery of a very targeted localities model, which is a complete rethink of how we have up to now organised ourselves as an operating model,” he explains.

“It is a locality model based on need and on what the data is telling us about that need. There will, of course, still be a universal offer for quite a lot of the ser-vices but it will enable us to better target support at those areas that, we feel, need it the most, whilst at the same time engaging with our communities and residents very differently."

“We’re at the point where we’ve agreed the localities geographically; we’ve also agreed we shall look at how we might support localities to thrive, by determining measures of social progress using a more focused approach to business intelligence and use of data,” Mr Hunting-ton says, adding that the intention is to roll out the change over the next 18 months to two years.

"Organisationally, we’re no longer sitting in St Helens town centre expecting all our customers to come and visit us"

Rob Huntington Assistant Chief Executive, St Helens MBC

The experience of the pandemic has forced local authorities to address complex and challenging questions of significant structural change. For example, what does an authority’s built estate need to look like or be used for in the future? Or its libraries? Or its wider community assets? However, the issue is often less the technology itself and more a lack of access to the digital infrastructure that underpins it, highlights Mr Huntington.“

The majority of our citizens probably do have smart phones or access to some sort of digital equipment and have basic digital skills but connectivity is the issue, and this is often impacted by such challenges as worklessness and deprivation.

“We have ambitions to be a smart and digital borough, but have borough-wide connectivity issues. It becomes a bit of a perfect storm, where you have the ambition but no funding to deliver against it. That’s where national government can step in to support and put in place that national infrastructure,” he adds.