Labour activists call on policy backing for local GDS

A document by influential digital activists in the Labour Party has called on the party to back plans for a Local Government Digital Service (LGDS).

The document by the Labour Digital group, has outlined a set of proposals on digital policy which it hopes the party will adopt as official policy.

In the foreword to the report, Labour MP John Cruddas said: “And the digital economy demands a new approach to government. Reform needs to be about human-scale communities in control of their own services, continually able to make small, focused improvements.

“Government will be about giving people more control over their lives.”

The document said that a new LGDS could provide resources and support to help councils upgrade existing processes and apply government-as-a-platform resources.

The LGDS should be based on the central government GDS model but take the form of a coordinated coalition, “empowering local bodies to assess, debate and commission digital projects, with support from the Local Government Association (LGA), SOLACE and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).”

In addition, the document called for councils to maximise the benefits of the digital economy by working with industry leaders to implement a local approach for developing creative clusters.

To ensure that local authorities are able to maximise the benefits of the digital economy in their area, local and central government bodies should work with industry leaders to standardise and implement a local approach for developing creative clusters.

“Local government would be encouraged to develop blueprints for local skills development, connectivity and infrastructure, local information and services, business support and so forth,” it said.

The review also called for a requirement for public sector bodies to audit and declare the non-personal datasets they hold, publishing schedules for future release.

“This would also enable citizens to see what data can be requested and what is missing, while allowing businesses to exploit datasets and plan investment and resource allocation in line with the audit and release cycle,” it said.

In addition, councils should be given resources to develop and expand existing public WiFi networks to provide free internet access in public spaces.

Councils would produce a yearly report on the impact of the value generated by this initiative, the authors said.

The report also called for a digital database of assets in public ownership, with the aspiration to categorise all government assets over £1,000 by 2018.

“This would ensure that public assets were universally mapped, reducing the scope for unnecessary purchasing and allowing departments to pool resources and be consistently cognisant of underutilised capital.

It would also facilitate efforts to drive efficiencies through cross-government procurement,” the document said.

Initiatives such as the G-Cloud framework should be expanded to encourage more SMEs to win business from government, according to the report.

The report is separate from Labour’s Digital Government Review, which is looking to create a framework for transforming digital government together with concrete policy proposals.

Colin Marrs

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