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Government experts share digital leadership insights


'Quality conversations' and an emphasis on outcomes are needed to overcome the cultural hurdles and siloed budgets in the way of digital transformation

At May's Digital Authority Forum: Leadership & the Digital Agenda, a panel of digital experts convened with leaders from local government to debate the role of leadership in dealing with the thorniest issues in digital transformation. 

Charlotte Buckley, deputy director, local insight and resilience at the Department of Health, discussed her work in tackling the problem of delayed transfer of care of elderly people from hospital, which is costing £820 million a year, in partnership with the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.

She highlighted the main barriers - cultural hurdles, siloed budgets and a need for ownership across whole agenda - and suggested some solutions.

Eric Applewhite, programme director at GM Connect, addressed the risks as well as the benefits of devolution from his own experiences working on Greater Manchester’s devolution initiative. He said there is a danger we will end up with “devolved digital islands” unless organisations like his own maintain the role of an “honest broker.”

“Neutrality is so important,” he said, adding: “We think the devolution agenda will force attention on standards.”

Panellists also fed back to the audience on discussions held throughout the day on the meaning of leadership – questions such as who should lead, and what is the role of elected members?  

“We agreed that successful change depends on quality conversations,” said Daniel Leatherdale, psychologist, consultant and managing director at Open Space Learning. “It’s possibly more important than who is having those conversations.”

According to Geoff Connell, CIO of the oneSource shared service for Havering and Newham and Socitm president, the leadership question mainly boils down to nurturing relationships across the board, with frontline departments such as customer services and 'street scene' teams.

There is also, he said, undoubtedly a need to influence chief executives and the politicians who make the investment decisions.

“Work back from outcomes they’re trying to achieve and translate those to digital initiatives,” Connell told delegates. In his experience, buy-in to digital programmes from leaders has been partly due to “brave politicians”, but what of those councils who don’t have the leaders prepared to take the leap?

On the panel:

  • Charlotte Buckley, deputy director, local insight and resilience, Department of Health.
  • Eric Applewhite, programme director, GM Connect.
  • Daniel Leatherdale, psychologist, consultant and managing director, Open Space Learning.
  • Geoff Connell, CIO oneSource (London Boroughs of Havering and Newham) and president of Socitm.

Watch the full discussion, moderated by Helen Olsen Bedford, publisher of UKAuthority:

 See more videos from the event.


The Digital Authority Forum: Leadership & the Digital Agenda in May 2016 provided a practical, interactive forum to help shape the future of digital leadership across local government. 

Digital Authority Forum: Local Cyber Resilience takes place on 7th December in London  

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