The business case in the public sector

Why should the public sector invest in business continuity management?

The public sector is responsible for providing public services such as:

  • Education
  • Health and social care
  • Emergency services
  • Military and law enforcement services
  • Housing and waste collection

A quick introduction to local authorities in the UK

In the UK, local government consists of at least one or two tiers of authority.

Those with two tiers, with responsibilities of local services divided between them (as of 2019) include:

  • 27 county councils – such as Warwickshire County Council That contain within them:

  • 201 district, borough or city councils such as North Warwickshire Borough Council or Coventry City Council

One (unitary) tier providing all services include:

  • 56 unitary councils – such as Leicester

  • 33 London boroughs

  • 36 metropolitan boroughs – such as Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council

Local councils are made up of elected officials (councillors) and non-elected officials (appointed). Councils are responsible for social care, schools, housing and planning, waste collection, licensing, business support, registrar services and pest control within their boundaries. You can find out more about their responsibilities and structures at the Local Government Association website.

Local authorities and business continuity

The short answer to the question we posed at the beginning of this step is because legislation requires them to invest in it.

The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 places a statutory duty on local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, to develop business continuity plans for all of the functions that they provide. Local Authorities need to be able to respond to extreme weather conditions, cyber-attacks and IT failures (among others) to ensure that they can continue to provide vital services to their communities.

A number of examples of damage sustained by Storm Desmond alongside Cumbria County Council’s response can be found at Cumbria.gov.uk.

As a summary, they include:

  • Flood damage sustained to 32 of the County’s public buildings, including police and fire stations requiring the relocation of these services (Cumbria County Council 2018: 38). By the end of 2015 only 31.3% of the assets had been restored but by April 2018 only one remained closed, though three had had to close permanently.

  • The storm required around 491 evacuees to be sheltered across 13 Emergency Assistance Centres (EACs).

  • The volume of municipal waste requiring collection increased significantly requiring the council to open Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC) for longer and waive the requirement for a permit in order to make disposal easier.

In the above example a civil emergency would be managed by the emergency services and associated responders, however such emergencies may bring about disruptive challenges for the community. With this regard it is important for local local business and commerce to have in place their own BCM arrangements.

Furthermore, for local authorities and public sector organisations such as the National Health Service, like any private organisation, the benefits of business continuity planning and management are:

  • Reducing financial loss
  • Managing uninsurable risk
  • Minimising disruptions to customers/clients/constituents/service users

Your task

Take about 30 minutes to investigate a business continuity plan for a public sector organisation or local government in a country of your choice.

Share a short summary of how the organisation plans for continuity in its own operations.

Can you see a link between the public sector plans and the World Economic Forum Global Risks?

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This article is from the free online course:

Business Continuity Management and Crisis Management: An Introduction

Coventry University