Councils should abandon their existing websites in favour of a shared platform similar to the .gov.uk website serving central government departments, according to a leading council IT chief.
In a blog posting, Richard Copley, head of ICT at Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, called for the creation of a Local Government Digital Service (LDGS)to oversee the standardisation and improvement of digital services in councils.
He said creating standardised services could reap significant savings by reducing up to 25,000 software applications currently run by authorities across England.
Copley said: “If each council agreed to subscribe to an LGDS and paid just £3,000 per year we’d be able deliver a local.gov.uk platform which would remove the need for individual council websites, significantly reduce software support and maintenance costs for a range of systems, allow for headcount reductions in web/digital/IT teams and begin to move away from local data centres.”
Additional benefits would be the improvement of user experience, and a reduction in hosting costs, he claimed.
Such an initiative could reduce the number of people working in council IT from more than 20,000 to around 20 people, he said.
Copley said that the Government Digital Service which currently serves central government departments currently had “no appetite” to tackle local government because they have too much on their plate.
As an alternative, he said that an LGDS could simultaneously provide a philosophy, an IT strategy and a central team of people to deliver it.
He said that the idea of all councils trying to provide similar architecture on individual websites was “clearly bonkers”, and that they could work together to get bigger, better, cheaper contracts from suppliers.
But he admitted that it would be a challenge to get all 326 councils to work together, and that big suppliers might resist the initiative.
Copley also said that public sector IT representative body Socitm should lead the initative, as it has “a ready made team of experts in digital government who know what is needed to transform local government and who are champing at the bit to get cracking.”
Responding to the suggestion on Twitter, Socitm president Steve Halliday said that he liked the idea, but that it must ensure that it did not abandon the principle of localism.