What’s in Store for 2012?

The New Year starts with the Prime Minister warning of “worse to come” with respect to the UK economy. For those who work with and for public sector organisations we know ‘how bad it is’ and we know we are nowhere near the bottom of the public sector consultancy economic cycle! Times have been hard and they are going to be even harder over the next 2/3 years but, as with most small consultancy practices, we can be flexible and we can respond to the market a lot quicker than the ’bigger players’ – and we think we have managed to do this over the past 2 years.

We have moved in two directions. Firstly by developing new partnerships and building on existing partnership arrangements. So, for example, we have joined with Insight Management Solutions and won the contract for the three strands of a National Skills Academy programme to provide management training to 24 graduate trainees who are moving into Adult Social Care. We are also very positive about linking with an internationally renowned UK business – one of the largest of its kind in the world – to provide specialist support in Regulatory Services reform. We hope to have this relationship confirmed early in 2012 and we are very positive about future prospects.

Our second direction has been to look outside the UK – and we are currently working with a Swedish organisation that specialises in public sector consultancy – on a project that supports the decentralisation of powers from central to local government in Albania. This began in September 2011 and continues into the New Year when this first phase will be complete. Tirana is not quite like London or Cardiff and Albanian local government is not quite like our own – but it has the same group of dedicated public sector workers seeking solutions to improve public sector services even if they are very underdeveloped when compared to Western Europe.

And looking ahead, we believe it is only through being open to working in partnerships that new opportunities will open in a very difficult climate. The implications of the Health and Social Care Bill – that should be enacted in early Spring – should provide specialist organisations like our own – with considerable experience in the sector and on the interface with Health – with quite a lot of work, yet if it continues the way the changes have happened over the past 6 months then it is likely to be the large consultancies on framework agreements that will be called upon to provide the support that is much needed. Despite all the rhetoric, the SME’s in this world really don’t operate on a ‘level playing field’ with the larger practices with all their links into the central and local government people that matter on procurement decisions.

Nonetheless, as we look toward the New Year – and the years that follow – we do so with trepidation as colleagues in the public sector consultancy business and our colleagues employed in the state sector start to experience serious anxieties about work and income for the first time. The health cost of anxieties of such proportions are untold – and unmeasured – but as the Christmas and New Year festivities come to an end – and the return to reality starts to hit – we will recall all those conversations over the past 2 weeks about “where the next contract is going to be found” or “how severe the next round of cuts is going” to be for those in employment. It is a sad place to be right now and whilst the noises come from those in power about recognising this issue, I wonder if they have any real understanding what it is currently like for the majority of the working population right now?

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