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Local government bodies call for greater digital innovation

Current digital services in local government cannot meet changing demand without greater innovation, Socitm, the LGA, Solace and the Local CIO Council have said in a joint paper.

The paper says that the current ‘salami slice’ approach to digital services is not sustainable, and recommends greater devolution and integration to make improving services easier.

It says that the internet will be increasingly used in the future to allow residents to conduct interactions such as paying council tax or reporting fly-tipping, and to allow council workers to share data with colleagues and partner organisations.

Martin Ferguson, Socitm’s director of policy and research, who co-authored the paper, said: “Local digital leadership is the cornerstone of public services redesign and transformation. Industrial age services can no longer be sustained to meet rapidly-changing needs.”

The paper also recommends a more ‘place-based’ approach to the use of data – for example, by introducing ‘smart bins’ that can monitor when they are full.

The paper’s authors admit that there are dangers of increased digitalisation, such as data privacy concerns and the risk of excluding people who lack computer skills.

However, they say that securely kept online data is safer than traditional records because it reduces the risk of human error, and councils can take action to improve digital inclusion.

The paper calls for local authorities to devote more resources to championing digital innovation within their own sector and sharing best practice with other local authorities.

Successful initiatives highlighted in the paper include an online customer service portal developed by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, use of mobile technology by neighbourhood staff in Bristol, and the use of the Patchwork social-media style tool to allow organisations to communicate about clients in Staffordshire.

Socitm has also published the overall results of its 2015-16 Better Connected survey, which found that 44% of UK local government websites have been rated as providing a good or very good user experience.

Socitm recently called for the Government as a Platform digital initiative to be expanded to local services.

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