Recently Leapfrog took part in an event titled Social Impact Tool- Assessing the Impact of Service Cuts organised in the Lighthouse, in Glasgow. The workshop aimed to present the final report of a major research project ‘What Works Scotland’ conducted over three years in collaboration between the University of Glasgow and Heriot Watt University. Here the research team analysed and investigated the impact of the cuts implemented by central government since 2010. In particular, they were focused on how these Austerity policies have affected the poorest people and places in both national and local levels. To do it, they have undertaken analysis of budget cuts at the national level and studied four case studies in order to understand the nature and implications on a local level, three in England (Coventry City Council, Milton Keynes Council and Newcastle City Council) and one in Scotland (Renfrewshire Council).

The takeaways of the research project were summarised in five key points:

  • The spending differential between disadvantaged and better off councils in England is in sharp decline.
  • The spending differential between disadvantaged and better off councils in Scotland remains.
  • Efficiency savings have been replaced by service retrenchment.
  • Protection of pro-​poor services is becoming more difficult. (Pro-​poor is a term that refers to policies that seek to stimulate and increase the growth specifically among poor people).
  • Impacts on services are evident: 
    • Organisational and strategic capacity is under strain.
    • Partnerships are being undermined and silos rebuilt.
    • Prevention activity is squeezed in England. In Scotland it may be possible to protect it more.
    • In England, there is a big emphasis in “civic responsibility” but a lack of investment in capacity.
    • Pro-​poor services are showing signs of strain. It is not only about busy offices, it is about needs unmet.
    • Surveys are beginning to show that citizens are dissatisfied.

On the one hand, the report describes a current precarious scenario in which the poor people are the ones who have suffered the most by the Austerity policies. Additionally, social inequalities appear between Scotland and England. On the other hand, the cuts have prompted a rethink about the efficiency of public services and therefore a redesign of them, which it could be a good thing as long as it is ensured that the change is for good. However the report points out that the current measures proposed of continuing with more cuts are unsustainable and are putting in risk that local authorities will be able to deliver crucial services and therefore to protect people in need.

As a result of their investigation, they have developed a financial tool called the Impact Social Tool which consists of an excel tool in which public sector officers or NGO’s officers with access to budgetary information can assess their monetary plans and see to what extent they are conducting cuts in pro-​poor services.

Although the approach is different, this project is important for Leapfrog because essentially shares the same objective, investigating new models of communication between citizens and the public sector, enhancing public services, as well as providing tools that have the capacity of mediating in community initiatives. It also illustrates the current situation and predicts uncertainty for local authorities.

More information and the report can be found here:

http://​whatworksscotland​.ac​.uk/​p​u​b​l​i​c​a​t​i​o​n​s​/​p​r​e​s​e​n​t​a​t​i​o​ns/

https://​www​.jrf​.org​.uk/​r​e​p​o​r​t​/​c​o​s​t​-​c​u​t​s​-​s​o​c​i​a​l​-​i​m​p​a​c​t​-​t​o​o​l​-​l​o​c​a​l​-​a​u​t​h​o​r​i​t​ies