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Watchdog goes after local government waste in IT

Socitm, the representative body for people in public sector IT, has issued guidance it says can help leaders in the sector better tackle inconsistency, waste and duplicated efforts in digital government.

The publication follows the organisation’s response to think tank Policy Exchange’s Technology Manifesto which called for a single online platform similar to GOV.UK for local councils to use.

While some welcomed the Policy Exchange call, Socitm says in reality it is impractical - and might even impede on principles of democracy and accountability in local government.

“There is much better, more practical and realistic path of solving problems of inconsistency, waste and duplicated effort across local government digital activity,” claimed the organisation.

“A different approach will make full use of standard APIs to enable the integration of transaction code built once on a shared platform where various software assets reside that can be exploited by different information systems – ‘government as a platform’,” it claimed.

Look to other successful digital initiatives for inspiration

Instead, the leadership group is now presenting its preferred examples of digital assets and resource sharing that would decrease duplication and save money as an alternative to a LOCALGOV.UK.

The body drew attention to the 2009 “Connect Digitally” government-funded project that intended to help councils move school admissions and free school meals applications online.

According to Socitm, this process reduced the application process for free meals from three months to three minutes, as well as leading to an 80% national uptake for the service.

It claims such success was demonstration of “scaling innovation and transferring solutions” across local government.

Another project highlighted in the document as an example of digital success and an alternative to a singular online platform for local government was “Planning Portal.”

Again, this scheme was government funded allowing local planning authorities to move their activity online, the guidance points out.

Socitm ends by claiming by promoting such alternatives, councils can learning from existing digital initiatives rather than build any "costly and impractical" platforms of their own.