Socitm, the representative body for people in public sector IT, has welcomed the Labour Party’s recent Digital Government Review Publication.
Last week, the political party published a report on its on-going investigation on how technology can be used to build a better government.
It included points such as the need for an ethics technology council for government and regaining public trust through openness and transparency.
Socitm says it is pleased to see a clear focus on putting people at the heart of the opportunities presented by digital.
The organisation also supports the report for recognising that most public services are delivered at a local level, an issue it feels strongly about.
“It is important to recognise that every place is different and therefore the solutions will often need to be different too,” Socitm claimed.
“Local authorities are uniquely placed to play the leadership and facilitation role locally, but with less emphasis in future on delivering services and more on delivering whole system outcomes,” it added.
Socitm agrees with Labour that properly utilising digital technologies offers the opportunity to increase productivity and unlock cost savings.
Like Labour, the organisation believes this can be best achieved via an open, digital infrastructure and notes that its own work with the Local CIO Council on the Public Services Network on identity assurance is an element of this.
“Socitm welcomes the recommendation for a strong, open evidence base to be maintained to capture the outcomes, costs and benefits of implementing and collaborating on digital services,” it claimed.
“However, we do not think it necessary to set up anything new here, since there is plenty to build on with the evidence base on IT and digital practice and innovation in local government already developed by, among others, Socitm.
“Indeed, we would urge caution in placing this evidence base in the hands of central government, as this is likely to lead to one-size-fits-all funding and digital solutions, rather than the people-centric, locally-driven, collaborative approach espoused by the review,” it added.
Although Socitm agrees with much of the Labour review, it emphasises that it believes local government should have the ability to act independently when delivering digital services.
“We are not fully comfortable with the recommendation that ‘GDS (Government Digital Service) be given the remit to work with local government’,” it claimed.
“GDS works for central government and has mandate authority to disrupt and changes central Departments, regardless of Departmental opposition.
“No such authority exists to apply a similar principle in local government, which would in any case stifle local innovation and adaptability to local contexts,” it added.
Socitm claims to recognise the high value work GDS does, but it should remain advisory and continue to offer the use of best practices.
It also says the touches upon the first of its three principles for digital, collaboration and redesign, but has little to say about the third – innovation and disruption.
“The review breaks new ground in recognising that local authorities must play a critical role in the adoption and exploitation of digital ways of working,” Socitm claimed.
“We agree with the review that more need to be done to build on the successes of projects in individual localities.
“We would suggest an approach aligned with the current dissemination and engagement programme being led by Socitm across England for health and care integration,” it added.