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Report of the Digital Government Review

The need for a strategy: meeting expectations, rising to local challenges

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Against this backdrop (in particular of increasing complexity and reducing budgets) traditional long-cycle approaches to procurement and development of digital services will lead to digital services in local government not keeping up with the expectations of front line staff, local elected representatives and the public.

Local government faces more difficult digital challenges than central government but, despite pockets of success [122], local authorities are not working together to tackle these digital challenges [123]. It seems clear to us that GDS has not been charged nor resourced to work with local government whilst Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is conspicuous in not having an overarching strategy or vision for how digital should or could work in this sector [124].

For many people, the answer to the conundrum of how to increase the pace of digital transformation local government seems obvious: we must create an equivalent of the Cabinet Office Government Digital Service (GDS), a “a local GDS”, and seek to replicate its national successes and expertise at the local level.

There is significant demand for such an organisation from a growing number of people and organisations including those such as Socitm (the Society for IT Managers) and LocalGovDigital who are themselves working to improve local government’s digital capabilities [125].

We must, however, be extremely careful around what is meant by “a local GDS”. The central government GDS is one organizational group, based in a single location and that leads on digital transformation across central government. GDS owns or part owns a delivery programme; builds new services; produces common components; and enforces tight governance over standards that all central government departments must adhere to when they build their own services.

Such a model cannot be directly transplanted into local government, where there is a more complex cultural and political challenge constantly being addressed: how to deliver cost-effective digital services that are right for the people and communities represented by each democratically elected local authority.

“There is a need for coordination, overarching leadership and some sector-wide strategy for councils to benchmark their progress, inspire change through healthy rivalry and pride, share good practice, and prevent duplication of efforts.” – Think Tank

[122] Such as the Open Systems Alliance or Local Gov Makers
[123] See Appendix C for more evidence for this assertion
[124] The central government department responsible for local government, DCLG, is the only department without a digital strategy
[125] Other groups do exist such as the Scotland Improvement Service

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