IT Systems and Data Protection


Creating a common digital direction

Source: PSE April/May 2018

Phil Rumens, chair of the LocalGov Digital Steering Group and digital services manager for West Berkshire Council, urges local authorities to make use of the Local Government Digital Service Standard (LGDSS) in order to exploit the full opportunities of technology in public services.

The greatest strength of local government is that it understands local needs and can deliver services and solutions tailored to meet them. This is because it is elected by, and serves, its local community.

Most councils have had a website for around 20 years, and during this time there’s been a shift in how people interact with their local authority. At West Berkshire Council we’ve seen the number of website sessions grow to three times the number of phone calls we receive every month. Whilst we still promote 24/7 access to the council, the peak times of online use are now Monday and Tuesday during the day. Our website once complemented our information provision through traditional means such as print or phone – now it’s replacing it.

Perhaps the biggest change online in recent years is that organisations now use the internet not just to provide information, but to deliver services too. Many councils now have a digital transformation programme to redesign their services around the efficiencies and improvements the internet and its associated technologies can provide.

This, however, is where the individuality of a local authority can be a weakness.

Whilst in the physical world a council will deliver many services that are bespoke to its area, when this approach is taken to digital services it ignores the advantages of the economy of scale of the internet. Across the country we see the same things recreated, or rebadged and sold individually to councils. Imagine regional Amazons or Googles, recreated 400 times across the UK, all doing largely the same thing. When it comes to digital, to a great extent that’s what’s happening.

So how do we preserve the individuality of each council whilst supporting the benefits that collaboration on digital services can provide?

LocalGov Digital is an association for people working in and around local government who are interested in improving public service delivery using the internet and digital technology. I’m currently chair of its Steering Group, and we’re shortly to launch a membership offer. In 2016, with the help of the Government Digital Service (GDS), we created the LGDSS.

It’s important to stress that standards do not mean wholesale standardisation. In your home you’ll probably have a television, a washing machine, a vacuum cleaner. They all perform different tasks and there’s a wide variety models and makes of each to choose from. They are, however, built to standards, so you can be sure they’re safe and are designed to work well.

Whilst they perform different tasks, they have one thing in common: they all run on 240 volts. This standard means that you can buy something with confidence that you’ll be able to plug it into any socket in your house and it will work.

Like its central government counterpart, the LGDSS suggests how to create and deliver good digital services. It’s not about making LocalGov Digital a bland franchise of the GDS – it’s about ensuring quality of service to an established level.

This isn’t a new concept for councils. Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission assess schools and care provision, but until now there hasn’t been anything similar for digital services. The big difference is that assessments aren’t top-down, and are completed through a peer review.

Some councils have already adopted the standard wholesale; others are trialling it with individual services. But however it is used, it’s a declaration to deliver better digital services – and if your councils isn’t already, I urge you to use it.




There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Yorkshire council chiefs threaten pull out of asylum seeker housing project

20/08/2018Yorkshire council chiefs threaten pull out of asylum seeker housing project

Council bosses in Yorkshire are considering pulling out of an asylum seeker programme that gives homes to over 5,000 people unless the current pr... more >
Developer in £13m legal wrangle with Northumberland now plans to take council to High Court

17/08/2018Developer in £13m legal wrangle with Northumberland now plans to take council to High Court

A property developer who launched a £13m legal bid against Northumberland County Council says it has been banned from sharing vital informa... more >
High Court allows London council to fine and imprison illegal campers

17/08/2018High Court allows London council to fine and imprison illegal campers

A council has successfully obtained a High Court injunction allowing it to use greater powers – from fines and asset seizure to imprisonmen... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >
One in 10 people facing care costs of over £100,000

20/08/2018One in 10 people facing care costs of over £100,000

One in 10 older people are facing care costs of over £100,000, with many not saving enough to pay for care in later life, new research shows. Analysis by ‘Which?’ indicates... more >
Care services for vulnerable children in ‘silent crisis,’ new analysis shows

20/08/2018Care services for vulnerable children in ‘silent crisis,’ new analysis shows

Over 13,000 vulnerable children are receiving care in areas rated in the lowest standard of support, damning new analysis has found. Local services for children in need of help were dubbed a... more >

the raven's daily blog

Don’t horse around! Council finds new home for house-bound pony

13/08/2018Don’t horse around! Council finds new home for house-bound pony

A council that took four years in a legal wrangle to remove a pony from an Isle of Lewis house may have found the four-legged beast a new home. Western Isles council removed Grey Lady Too – a Connemara pony that was taken into the home by pensioner Stephanie Noble on Christmas Eve in 2011 – from its residence in 2014 because i... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >


A new era of opportunity for the north

13/08/2018A new era of opportunity for the north

It’s time to stop seeing transport investment as a nice-to-have: it’s a cut-through catalyst for growth in sectors across the north. ... more >
Creating a council cloud-first approach

13/08/2018Creating a council cloud-first approach

Georgina Maratheftis, programme manager for local government at techUK, makes the case for wider adoption of cloud technology by local authoritie... more >
Council mergers: little gain, less democratic

13/08/2018Council mergers: little gain, less democratic

Dr Linze Schaap, associate professor at the Tilburg Centre for Regional Law and Governance, and Dr Niels Karsten, assistant professor at the Tilb... more >
The strength of districts

13/08/2018The strength of districts

Cllr Isobel Darby, member lead for quality of life at the District Councils’ Network (DCN) and leader of Chiltern District Council, shares ... more >


Modern policing: the future is bright

06/08/2018Modern policing: the future is bright

SPONSORED INTERVIEW The public sector, and policing in particular, has often been criticised as being slow to adapt to change. But now, says L... more >
Michael King: Time for Ombudsman reform

06/08/2018Michael King: Time for Ombudsman reform

Michael King first joined the Local Government Ombudsman service back in 2004 as deputy ombudsman. At the start of 2017, he was appointed as the ... more >
Helping a city understand itself

06/08/2018Helping a city understand itself

SPONSORED INTERVIEW The urban landscape is changing. How can local authorities keep up with citizen behaviour? Stephen Leece, managing directo... more >
Data at the heart of digital transformation

03/04/2018Data at the heart of digital transformation

SPONSORED INTERVIEW Grant Caley, UK & Ireland chief technologist at NetApp, speaks to PSE’s Luana Salles about the benefits of movin... more >

public sector focus

View all News