Socitm responds to Labour’s digital review

Socitm, the association for IT and digital leaders in local public services, has said that it “welcomes” Labour’s Digital Government Review, commissioned by Chi Onwurah MP, as it aligns with Socitm’s “Policy Briefing Digital: Vision to Value”.

However, the association is not “fully comfortable” with the suggestion of greater GDS powers in local government and says that the digital review fails to address adequately the issue of “innovation and disruption”, which is one of the cornerstones of Socitm’s digital outlook.

Socitm said it was particularly pleased with the ethos of the review to put consumers at the centre of a digital programme and recognising the importance of “digital designed for people and communities, not digital for government”.

It welcomed the importance of identifying the importance of local level governance and a de-centralised digital policy, but rather than agreeing with the recommendation of the report of granting the Government Digital Service (GDS) greater control at a local level, Socitm said that its previous suggestion of creating local digital controls would deliver an improved service.

The association agrees with the review’s findings that complex services, such as social care, on a local level are the greatest challenge for a digital technology implementation; Socitm stresses it is important to “recognise that every place is different” and therefore require uniquely tailored solutions, which cannot necessarily be provided from central government.

Socitm describes local authorities as “uniquely placed” to implement leadership and facilitation processes with an increased focus on delivering “whole system outcomes”, but citing the example of local integrated care, says that the importance of this aspect is overlooked by review.

It agrees that digital sources provide the best efficiencies in terms of cost and productivity, which is best accessed through an “open digital infrastructure” and recommends a “strong open evidence base” to record outcomes, costs and benefits from using digital services.

But finds that much of this is already in case with a local evidence base largely already in operation; Socitm warns that the best implementation would be to keep the evidence base on a local level as to avoid the pitfalls of centralised government and “one-size-fits-all” solutions to ensure that solutions are “people driven”.

The association found few distinguishing factors between its previous suggestion of a local GDS and the review’s proposition of a “new national organisation to create ‘local digital factories’, run on a fundamentally open, collaborative and not-for-profit basis”.

Socitm stresses that it firmly believes that the GDS should “remain advisory, continuing and expanding its offering of the use of best practice assets”, but does acknowledge its important role in digital implementation.

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