How can local government make digital activity more efficient?

How can local government best tackle the much discussed inconsistency, waste and duplicated effort across its digital activity, asks Socitm in the first of a pair of new briefings, published in July and August.

The briefings have been inspired by the ongoing debate sparked off in January by a blogpost calling for a single local government website to replace those run by the UK’s 433 local authorities.

The debate intensified when think tank The Policy Exchange picked this up in its Technology Manifesto published in June, suggesting that: “A local GDS hub should be set up … [to] provide practical support to help local authorities apply ‘Government as a Platform’ resources; advocate the adoption of open standards across the sector; and establish a single website for local government.” 

Socitm’s immediate response to the single local government website suggestion was to reject it on the basis that this would not deliver the benefits claimed, but even more important, that this would run counter to the principles of democracy and accountability that are embedded in local government.

The new briefing explores in more detail the reasons why Socitm rejects the single local government website and starts to explore other forms of digital asset and resource sharing that might reduce duplication and deliver savings.

While the second briefing will look a what recent technologies as well as increasing adoption of open source and open standards are making possible today, this one looks back at some successful examples of sharing from the recent past.

Readers are reminded about ‘Connect Digitally’ the central government funded programme to help councils transform schools admissions and free school meals into digital services with high take-up and online payments.

The programme has led to national take-up for online school admissions of 80%, demonstrating the effectiveness of this method of scaling innovation and transferring solutions across local government.

Also funded by central government, The Planning Portal was established to support the transition by local planning authorities (LPAs) and their customers to online planning. This included work with suppliers on planning systems as well as provision of free training, resources and advice help LPAs, and the professionals they work with, to move to paperless planning in all its forms. 60% of planning applications are now received online.

The briefing also highlights examples of local authorities that have chosen of their own volition to combine their websites at the ‘front end’ or behind the scenes. Examples include Dorset for You, involving the County and several districts, as well as Adur DC and Worthing DC; Allerdale BC and Carlisle City and South Oxfordshire DC and Vale of White Horse DC. All these sites score highly in Better connected, Socitm’s annual review of all local authority websites.

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