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Call for local digital service

02/09/14

Empowered local teams are much more likely than the iron hand of Whitehall to improve online local services and cut down on waste - according to the body representing local IT managers.

In its latest contribution to the debate over the creation of a single local government website - itself part of a decades-long tug of war - Socitm says that trying to create a single local government website is not a sensible or achievable approach.

According to Socitm, relying upon volunteer, grass roots activism is unlikely to deliver digital transformation at scale. It is equally unrealistic to expect a sector where there is a history of patchy implementation of digital, and where funding is extremely tight, to change its approach suddenly without some sort of financial kick-start.

Rather it proposes a local government digital service as a team of advisres available to support teams local authorities in implementing digital strategies and associated transformational change, and to help identify and promote best practice and opportunities for sharing digital assets (including those already developed by the existing Government Digital Service).

Unlike GDS, LGDS would not be the primary source of systems development, although there may be opportunities for key shared transactions to be co-created. Digital development would continue to take place in - or be commissioned by - digital teams in each local authority, drawing on sharable transaction code as appropriate.

The Socitm briefing Collaborating and sharing digital assets: towards a local government digital service? admits that for a local GDS to succeed individual councils would also need to find the political will to:
• Commit to digital transformation and the disruption that may follow
• Overcome resistance to change by service delivery silos
• Invest in digital capacity in-house.

The idea may attract support in local government and possibly among localism-inclined ministers. However any kick-start funding for local digital transformation is likely to come with strings attached.

Meanwhile the Government Digital Service continue to boost its team implementing its centrally focused model, including appointing a new deputy chief technology officer, Magnus Falk former chief information officer at financial services group Credit Suisse.

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