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Navigating the Power of AI in Local Councils

The power and potential of AI in the dynamic landscape of Local Government has emerged as a transformative force, offering innovative solutions to address complex and time-consuming challenges. Penna recently attended an event hosted by Brent Council’s Digital Transformation Lead Rehana Ramesh, in which stakeholders from the IT world gathered to explore the potential of AI in revolutionising operations within Local Government. From optimising resource allocation to enhancing customer experience, the discussions underscored the profound impact AI can have on the council’s ability to deliver more efficient services. At a time when council’s budgets are stretched to the max, it could offer a powerful tool for delivery.

The event really brought the issues and concerns of using AI in Local Government to life. This was a great opportunity to discuss all things AI, whilst showcasing the pilot that Brent Council has put together which manages housing complaints. We saw an insightful group of panellists put together to discuss their thoughts; this included technical experts from MicrosoftInfosys as well as key partners such as Society for Innovation, Technology and Modernisation (SOCITM) Chief Executive Nadira Hussain.

One of the key points raised at the event was the importance of demonstrating the practicalities of how we apply and use AI within the public sector – specifically in this example to housing complaints. Seeing these applications in real-world scenarios not only validates the potential of AI but also fosters confidence in its efficacy among those who are being asked to use it. We saw in real time how AI can serve a diverse community such as Brent, whose residents speak a multitude of different languages. To see how the housing team at Brent have used such technology to translate communications into different languages to residents within seconds was striking. Ultimately, saving time and resource.

Collaboration emerged as another central theme, emphasising the significance of sharing insights and best practice with one another. By collaborating with peers, industry experts, and technology partners, councils like Brent can leverage collective expertise to accelerate innovation and overcome any potential challenges. Knowledge exchange is encouraged to allow councils to learn from each other’s experiences and identify opportunities for mutual growth and improvement in AI adoption and implementation.

Some of the key concerns about AI were addressed in this discussion too. Would AI get rid of all the jobs? Would residents want to make complaints to an AI? Well, it was clear to see that AI responses would need checking over and tweaks and edits are always advised. The data used would also constantly need to be checked and updated to improve currency and reliance of results. If there is bias in the data, there will be bias in the AI response. So, jobs wise, AI will be an enhancing productivity tool rather than a human replacement.

With regards to resident engagement, there was concern that an AI response would lack empathy, but good examples were given where residents can choose to use AI, so it is clear from the start, and appropriate expectations are set. We saw live demonstrations where AI captured the issues and presented back solutions and a course of action with ease. When quick answers without empathy were needed, AI showed how this could be done quickly. We felt people would we be happy for AI to handle it if it meant quicker responses and potentially faster resolutions.

Alongside this, the ethical implications of AI remain. As AI algorithms increasingly influence decision-making processes, councils must prioritise transparency, fairness and accountability to ensure the safe and responsible use of AI technologies and the data they use. By establishing robust governance frameworks which include much needed human intervention and ethical guidelines, councils can mitigate the risk of bias or discrimination in AI-driven decision-making. This in turn will uphold the trust and confidence of communities and residents.

In conclusion, as we journey towards harnessing the potential of AI in decision making, it is imperative to recognise the crucial role of human interaction and the need to view AI as a supportive solution-focused platform rather than a decision maker. While AI technologies offer unprecedented opportunities to optimise processes, enhance efficiency and improve outcomes, it is the human touch that remains indispensable in ensuring ethical, transparent, and equitable practices.

Amin Aziz and Zeynep Livatyali-Esen are Senior Consultants at Penna, Executive Search. They will be continuing this important discussion and development with our annual MJ and SOCITM Round Table in June, and our session with the DCN Development programme in July. If you’re interested to find out more about these, or how our Executive Search team can help, then contact our team at, or via the links below:

Amin Aziz – Senior Consultant at Penna

LinkedIn: Amin Aziz

Zeynep Livatyali-Esen – Senior Consultant at Penna

LinkedIn: Zeynep Livatyali-Esen

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