Think tank hones local GDS proposal

Think tank Policy Exchange has scaled back its proposal for a local Government Digital Service (LGDS), saying it should be limited to creating and managing an online app store.

Last year, a report from the organisation called for a local GDS to oversee the replacement of all local authority websites with a single domain in the style of

However, a fresh report released yesterday withdrew this call in the wake of a lack of support within the sector and from politicians.

It said: “Local authorities do not need a version of the Government Digital Service to build their online transactions or apps.

“That would entail government becoming a monopoly supplier of IT to itself, the very antithesis of innovation.”

It said that, instead, the LGDS should limit itself to creating a “local government data marketplace” (LGDM) operating to open standards, allowing innovative developments to be scaled up across all councils.

“The LGDM would be a competitive online marketplace that brought together local authorities that needed particular online services (transactions, apps or data) with individuals, businesses and other organisations that could provide them,” the report said.

Because the LGDS would not build the apps itself, it would require only a small staff, and could be run by volunteer organisations such as LocalGov Digital or membership body Socitm, Policy Exchange said.

By taking a small commission on services, the LGDS could become self-funding, it suggested.

A statement from Socitm – which has previously opposed a local GDS – said that the think tank’s new position had “much merit”.

However, it added that “One size cannot fit all, and local determination is a fundamental component of local public services, so a local GDS type service must remain flexible and adaptable to local needs…”

In November, an independent review of digital government for the Labour Party rejected the idea of a local Government Digital Service in favour of a network of new “local digital factories”.

The Policy Exchange report also called for the Public Services Network (PSN) and N3 (used by the NHS) to be merged to create a Single Public Services Network (SPSN).

Colin Marrs

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