“As councils look ahead to the future there will be new risks to manage, from the shift away from the uncertainties of grant funding, to an ever more demanding public. The recent ransomware attacks, and other high profile incidents impacting them show some of these challenges,” said Jonathan House, partner at PwC, in a release.
PwC's seventh annual report surveyed 100 local authority chief executives, finance directors and elected council leaders across the UK and discovered that local authorities perceive themselves as vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
The research states new digital and data approaches offer great opportunities for local authorities, but the fact remains that it is important to put relevant safeguards in place for privacy and to ensure cyber and information security.
Just over half (53 percent) of local authorities are prepared to deal with a cyber-attack. With cyber-threats growing and coming from a range of potential sources; perhaps more worrying is the fact that 36 percent are neutral on the issue and 10 percent are not confident.
While half say they actively monitor cyber-security risks related to people, only 35 percent of local authority leaders are confident that their employees are well equipped to deal with cyber-threats. Therefore, councils urgently need to address their cyber-vulnerabilities.
Fifty-four percent believe some local authorities will get into serious financial difficulty in the next year. Half of respondents believe some councils will fail to deliver essential services in the next year, rising to 83 percent in the next five years.
“The growing political and economic uncertainty and financial pressure felt by leaders paints a very challenging picture looking forward for local authorities,” said House.
There has also been a notable drop in confidence over the last 12 months when it comes to embracing technology. The number of leaders who believe technology will help them better engage with communities and residents has jumped from 54 percent in 2016 to 83 percent in 2017. Only 61 percent of authorities are confident in their digital approach. Fifty-eight percent felt technology would enable them to reduce costs.
In a parallel survey, PwC surveyed 2,000 UK consumers about the performance of their local authority. Just 34 percent trusted their council to manage and share their data and information appropriately.
Only 33 percent of respondents are confident that their council uses data analytics effectively to inform decision-making and strategy.
Four in 10 (44 percent) said they would like more online services overall, with a clear preference among younger people (56 percent of 18-34 year olds) compared to older generations (34 percent of 55+ years).
“Now the challenge is to manage and grow their [councils'] capabilities – to utilise technology as a force for growth and to deliver citizens' expectations of a digital organisations,” House said.