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Councils need properly funded Local Government Digital Service – Soctim

Councils must get a properly funded ‘Local Government Digital Service’ and more powerful in-house digital teams – not a single website for local government.

That is the main message of new briefing document from Soctim, ‘Collaborating and sharing digital assets: towards a local government digital service?’, which argues that this is the best way to achieve an improved online experience for users as well as reduce waste and duplicated efforts.

In June, the think tank Policy Exchange published its ‘Technology Manifesto’, which called upon local government to develop a single platform for the provision of web services, following in the footsteps of the central government GOV.UK site.

However Soctim have disputed this, calling the idea “ill-conceived”, costly and full of logistical complexities. They have now proposed an alternative, the ‘Local Government Digital Service’, which it views as a national team of advisors available to support local authorities in implementing digital strategies, and associated transformational change. It would help to promote best practice and opportunities for sharing digital assets, including those already developed by the existing GDS.

According to the brief, relying upon volunteer grass-roots activism (like the LocalGovDigital initiative) and subscription-based membership models (like Socitm or Looking Local), is unlikely to deliver digital transformation at scale within the sector.

It adds that it is equally unrealistic to expect a sector where there is a history of patchy implementation of digital processes and services, and where funding is extremely tight, to suddenly change its approach without some sort of financial kick-start.

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