Update on the Cambridgeshire County Council Policy Challenges

Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange (CUSPE)


In October 2016 Cambridgeshire County Council and Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange (CUSPE) joined together to launch three key policy challenges, each examined by a small team of researchers. These challenges provide an opportunity for the council and university to work together to examine the following questions:

  • ‘Cambridgeshire’s educational achievement gap’,
  • ‘Reducing deprivation inequalities in Cambridgeshire’
  • What are the next generation of models to transform organisations, and how could they benefit Cambridgeshire County Council?

This update refers to the third of these challenges.


Policy Challenges

The council has needed to manage severe budget cuts over the last four years, with more to come in the next four years. The Cambridgeshire area is also experiencing a growing population, with greater needs for local services. Coupled with these pressures, there are also potential opportunities arising from devolution, with the creation of a Combined Authority covering Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. This is therefore an important time to examine current issues facing the council, potential opportunities to address these, and understand how changes in technology, society and government might influence these.

The three-person team addressing the question of ‘What are the next generation of models to transform organisations?’ has now had several meetings with councillors and council officers, resulting in the definition of three key areas of investigation; governance, organisational structure, and system methods.

1. The first area is looking at new models of governance in relation to the setting up of the combined authority. This will consider citizen involvement, digital democracy and moves towards open systems and open data sharing between parts of the council, different local authorities, other public bodies, third sector organisations, citizen groups, and individual citizens.  

2. The second part of the project will look at new organisational models. The Local Government Association has published several guidelines for local authority organisation that emphasise greater degrees of innovation; greater and faster responsiveness to local needs; co-design, development and delivery with users of services; and more joined up working between services and public bodies generally. This all has to take place within an environment of budgetary constraints and growing demand for services because of changing demographics.  One possible way forward is to re-design the delivery of some services through local hubs such as libraries and community centres.  

3. The third part of the project will look at the individual system methods that are used on projects.  The new models here include methods such as LEAN, AGILE and SCRUM, as well as a variety of user-centred methods and science-based methodologies. In looking at these, consideration will be given to how generally they can be applied to projects and how well they align with different organisational and governance structures.  

Next Steps

The work will continue for the next couple of months and is expected to report in March 2017.  The team welcome input from others, including members of CUSPE, especially with respect to any scientific evidence regarding the efficacy of various models of governance, organisational design or system methods.  


The team for this challenge includes Simon Davies, Nidhi Chaudhary and Rod Rivers.  The team can be contacted via Geoffroy Dolphin gd396@cam.ac.uk at CUSPE.

For more details, please see: