Solihull CIO Wonders Why There's No GDS Love For The Local Sector

Sep 17, 2014

Socitm ex-President Steve Halliday has come out in support of the idea of creating a version of Whitehall's Government Digital Service (GDS) for the local government sector.

Halliday, who led the public sector ICT professional body in 2013-14 and who is now the CIO of Solihull MBC, is one of a growing chrous of voices calling for some kind of central body that could push for the same kind of cost savings and efficiencies the GDS team is starting to create in the centre out in the wider public sector, too.

"A huge amount of talent, energy and budget is invested in GDS – and it simply does not reach local public services in any significant way," he frets.

In the blog post he posted this week that outlines the reasons for his call, he's even listed out specifics on the budget he thinks such a body should have: £7.6m, with a staff of 82.

Halliday derives the figures by factoring down the size of GDS's actual operating budget and personnel (£58.3m/635 staff).

The Socitm figure argues that such a body would help drive a push toward more standardised back offices, drive down procurement costs and generate Open Source based code Town Halls could draw on to deliver better digital services and replace pricey commercial systems.

Halliday reminds us that Martha Lane Fox’s 2010 report on online government services was a vision for "all" public services, not just for central, but that GDS now spends "virtually all its energies and budget on central government.”

"Even if you accept that half of what GDS produces can be used across all sectors, there still should be 40 people working for local GDS," he points out.

The Cabinet Office has stated that while GDS' core focus is indeed central government, a digital assets platform has been made available to all of the UK public sector and that it has been collaborating with Socitm on a number of initiatives identified as having potential for users of both central and local government services.

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