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Government Digital Service to start working with councils on local services

The Government Digital Service (GDS) will expand its remit and start working with councils to develop local digital services.

The plans, outlined in the chancellor’s Budget documentation, mark a massive expansion of the GDS, which had previously focused only on central government departments.

The Treasury stated that its digital ambition will extend beyond central government and arms-length bodies, to consider local services.

The Budget report said: “HM Treasury, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Government Digital Service will collaborate with partners in local government, as the sector develops a set of proposals that will enable more customer-focussed, digitally-enabled and efficient local services in time to inform future budget allocations.”

The announcement contained no further details of what this will entail, and no extra money for GDS was included in the Budget costings.

Even so, the Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm) believes it to be a positive step forward.

Nick Roberts, Socitm president, said: “We welcome the opportunity to work with GDS and other key stakeholders, such as the LGA and DCLG, in understanding how best to support and enable councils to collaborate with citizens and local communities on the production of digitally-reformed services in priority areas such as health and social care.”

The Local Government Association was also welcoming of the development but stressed that councils are best placed to work with residents in designing digital solutions.

Cllr Peter Fleming, chairman of the LGA's Improvement and Innovation Board, said: “Any commitment to greater digital collaboration to enable the public sector to join up more effectively around residents will help our communities.

“Councils are best placed to work with residents in shaping and designing digital solutions appropriate to local circumstances, so it is absolutely vital that we all work together and share our expertise and understanding of our customers. The LGA has long been supporting local government to deliver digital services and, with a wealth of knowledge and experience, central government needs to work with us on this project.”

Other digital measures included in the Budget include the implementation of a government identify verification service called Verify to allow people to prove their identity online. The idea is that different departments use the same tool, reducing duplication. The government also plans to create a joint venture for hosting more government data, rather than departments building their own data centres or having to pay to outsource the service.

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