Faced with big reductions in funding, most councils in England and Wales are taking a fresh look at how they deliver services, including establishing partnerships with the private sector. One area where this is working well is transcription, with suppliers like Appen providing accurate, timely written records that are also highly cost-effective.
For several years now, councils in England and Wales have faced the perfect storm, with decreasing funding, increasing costs and no reduction in their statutory obligations. More and more for less, if you like.
During this time, local authorities have tried different approaches; cuts to services, public consultations to redefine priorities and new service delivery models, including ‘contracting out’ some areas of their work to the private sector, also known as outsourcing.
Some of these projects have backfired, leaving some councils exposed and out of pocket. Other local authorities have struggled to specify and manage contracts for large, complex services.
Transcription is different, with simpler, more transparent and manageable contracts and services that are easier to describe and cost. Many local authorities are working successfully with Appen and other providers, either totally outsourcing or adopting a hybrid model – retaining an in-house transcription resource and calling on external support as and when it is needed.
It might not be immediately obvious, but many council services require a formal, written record of proceedings, including Legal Services, Property, Planning and Procurement, Licensing, Trading Standards and Environmental Health, Council Tax and Housing Benefit, Children’s Services and Human Resources.
All these services regularly conduct formal hearings, tribunals, investigations and appeals, in which the accuracy of the written record is paramount. And public meetings, from one-off ‘Town Hall’ events to regular committee meetings, also need timely, reliable transcripts so they can be shared with residents.
Traditionally, local authorities used in-house administrative support to create these formal written records. But maintaining this in-house function on a permanent basis is not always cost-effective and sometimes means paying for a service even when it’s not being used.
These days, it’s also an expense that’s increasingly hard to justify; Council Tax payers don’t see administrative support as a priority at a time when frontline services like education are facing cuts.
When it comes to transcription though, it’s not just financial pressures that make investigating alternative service delivery models a good idea:
- Expert suppliers can provide the very highest levels of accuracy, so transcripts can stand up to rigorous scrutiny, including in court.
- Transcripts provided by a third party are clearly impartial, often important in Human Resources matters, including trades union negotiations.
- Specialist transcription providers have the capacity to handle long-running hearings, last minute requests and short deadlines, where an in-house team might struggle to cope.
- Some projects require very high levels of security clearance and watertight information management – it’s easier for specialist, external suppliers to maintain these standards.
With outsourcing as a model coming under increasing scrutiny, councils are looking for innovation, creativity and flexibility as well as value for money. The smaller, more agile providers in the transcription market, like Appen, are the perfect fit, offering bespoke, flexible services that allow local authorities to specify exactly what they want and when, and make savings too.