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Back to the future?

Remember the Local Digital Alliance?

Formed in 2013 it was heralded as a collation of the willing and included the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the Local Government Association, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, and the Society of Council IT managers. Lots of organisations with multi-million pound budgets that were supposed to be leading on digital in local government, plus a few others.

What about the Local Digital Coalition? Born from the ashes of the DCLG's Local Digital Programme in 2016, it included the Local Government Association, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, and the Society of Council IT managers. Lots of organisations with multi-million pound budgets that were supposed to be leading on digital in local government, and a few others.

And what did these groups of sector leaders with big budgets deliver? The Alliance (to my knowledge) produced nothing and the Coalition produced an Action Plan and that's pretty much it.

This week I read the transcript of Sajid Javid MP's speech on digital and local government. It's really encouraging to see a Secretary of State highlight some of the problems many of us have been aware of for a while. These include a reliance on impenetrable legacy IT, analogue delivery models trying to do digital, and that many councils are re-keying data submitted online. There was even a push to encourage councils to focus on user needs.

Whoever wrote the speech with the Secretary of State clearly understood some of the challenges and barriers to the digital transformation of local public services.

There was one statement that reminded me of past efforts:

My department is working with councils and the Government Digital Service to create a new vision and a call to arms on local government digital.

Sound familiar? From experience it's not a call to arms that's needed, the battle has been underway for some time, it's support for those on the ground. Perhaps more encouraging though was the mention of incentives to invest time and money in doing things better.

I look forward to seeing what's produced and I hope the team doing this can see past a vision and make sure the strategy is delivery.


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