Socitm Says No To Local GOV.UK Site

Jun 20, 2014

Socitm, the representative body for people working in public sector IT, has rejected the idea of a single online platform for local government similar to GOV.UK.

GOV.UK is the single digital location for central government, housing Department websites and services.

Earlier this month, think tank Policy Exchange released its Technology Manifesto, which called upon local government to create a similar platform for itself.

However, Socitm has claimed that the idea is “ill-conceived and should not be attempted” - adding that there are deep flaws in the plan to bring together information and services for all local authorities.

Although the idea sounds attractive, said the organisation, one reason that a single site for local councils will not work is because they are independent, democratically accountable bodies.

“Citizens and businesses pay taxes and other charges to consume services delivered by their local authority. A direct digitally enabled relationship with the accountable body and its elected representatives is there essential,” said Socitm.

Individuality Makes Combined Platform Difficult

The representative body also notes the Localism Act 2011, which aimed to devolve more decision making powers from Whitehall and hand them to individuals, communities and councils.

Socitm claimed that “such local democratic engagement” is facilitated by local government websites in a manner that a centralised website could not match.

It added that although the ranges of services different councils offer are similar, there are thousands of these, each prioritised local via the democratic process.

Socitm argued that besides issues with logistics, it believes that the cost savings achieved via a LOCALGOV.UK site may not be as large as some assume.

“The major area of cost is not the website itself, but integration between it and back office systems, complicated by the variety of systems, processes and providers in place, including outsourced provision,” it claimed.

Socitm Supports Singular Shared Services Platform

Despite its criticisms, Socitm said it does support the idea of a common platform for software, tools and applications sharing for local government.

“It’s not difficult to sign up to the idea that if there are transactions all local councils are operating, we only need to build once and share,” claimed the organisation’s president, Nick Roberts.

“In real life things are much more complicated, but the principle holds,” he added.

This is the second time in recent weeks that Socitm has spoken out against media reports – two weeks ago, it hit back at claims that councils are “ignoring G-Cloud” and “wasting millions.”

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