Move comes with publication of a pledge and five principles for digital in local government
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has put up a £7.5 million fund for councils to bid for support in developing new digital solutions for their challenges.
The announcement comes alongside the creation of a new team in the ministry to work with local authorities, and the publication of a “digital pledge” with five principles to underpin council’s efforts.
Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak (pictured) announced the moves, saying that more than 50 local authorities have already signed up to the principles.
“Digital doesn’t belong in the basement, it belongs in the boardroom,” he said.
“I want councils and partners across the country to sign up to this declaration. By supporting each other and building on each other’s work we can revolutionise services for our residents.”
While the department provided no extra detail on how and when the innovation fund will be distributed, it said it will be focused on finding solutions to shared challenges, and will be accompanied by a new course to train senior local authority staff in digital leadership skills.
Similarly, there is little detail on the new team in MHCLG, but it is understood it will be working on a smaller scale than the Local Government Digital Programme that was wound up in 2016.
The five principles have been published as part of a new Local Digital Declaration:
- To go further to redesign our services around the needs of the people using them.
- ‘Fix our plumbing’ to break our dependence on inflexible and expensive technology that does not join up effectively.
- Design safe, secure and useful ways of sharing information.
- Demonstrate digital leadership, creating the conditions for genuine organisational transformation to happen.
- Embed an open culture that values, incentivises and expects digital ways of working from every member of our workforce.
Jon Tolley, portfolio holder for community engagement at Kingston Council, one of the signatories, said: “Being part of this declaration is a real commitment from the council to transform our services using new tools and technology to better meet the needs of our residents.
“We see digital technology and techniques as a key part of achieving this and are delighted that collective action is being taken across the sector to create the next generation of public services, whilst keeping the cost of delivering those services down.”
The declaration also requires signatories to make a series of commitments. Among these is that digital expertise should be central in decision-making and all technology decisions approved by appropriate officials.
There should also be visible, accessible leaders throughout an organisation, and plans should be published and lessons shared through channels such as blogs and sector meet-ups.
Transformation and digital teams should place an emphasis on re-using research, service design, common components and data and technology standards, and be ready to share their knowledge about digital projects.
A reiteration of the need to abide by the Technology Code of Practice is also included.
Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0