Draft procurement report highlights ability to rent existing assets for infrastructure development
Local authorities should look at the potential to raise revenue from utilising their assets in digital development, especially with the approach of 5G networks, according to a draft report on procurement strategy from the Local Government Association (LGA).
The recently published National Technological and Digital Category Procurement Strategy, currently going through consultation, includes the recommendation as part of a series in which revenue generation is taken as seriously as the potential for savings and to improve services through digital technology.
Its section on concession contracts points out that some councils are already obtaining incoming from allowing mobile network operators to place masts on the roofs of their buildings, and says the opportunities should increase when 5G becomes available.
Councils can make money from leasing space for wireless equipment, and use it to support their regeneration efforts through subsidised arrangements for residents and small businesses.
The report highlights three steps to help generate revenue in this area:
- Catalogue assets such as small cells, ducting and rooftops.
- Use these to subsidise connectivity for residents and local businesses.
- Seek to utilise all the opportunities to raise money or support wider work on local economic regeneration.
“Councils will need to continue to explore the opportunities 5G presents for further driving public service transformation, including the wider utilisation of smart infrastructure/internet of things and improved connectivity of local residents and businesses,” the report says.
A wide ranging review of how local authorities should approach their procurement and use of digital tech includes a recurring emphasis on promoting local businesses, especially in the small and medium enterprise sector.
Two steps it advocates are the creation of innovation partnerships, in which public authorities work with suppliers to develop solutions not already in the market; and the adoption of dynamic purchasing systems, procurement frameworks that new suppliers can join at any time.
There is also a lot around established options such as shared services, outsourcing and the use ‘vanilla’ digital solutions; technology priorities such as the adoption of open standards, the sharing and re-use of code, and using existing infrastructure and networks; and the importance of cyber security. The report urges councils to embrace relevant cyber accreditation and adopt the official cyber procurement frameworks on the Digital Marketplace.
One of local government’s high profile digital leaders Councillor Theo Blackwell, Camden’s member for technology, says in a new year blogpost that the draft report can set a lead for a “coalition of the willing” in local government.
He makes the point that councils will have a role in preparing the ground for 5G by leasing space on their rooftops for equipment, emphasising that wireless and broadband is now seen by most people as the “fifth utility” and that local authorities are expected to help eradicate blackspots in coverage.
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