Common council website platform costs questioned

Creating and implementing a single platform for local government websites would cost billions in upfront costs, according to a leading professional in the sector.

In a blog post, Phil Rumens, vice-chair of digital practitioner network, LocalGov Digital, has reopened the discussion whether councils can save money by creating a single platform.

Rumens, also digital services manager at West Berkshire Council, said that the idea would require councils to stop work on existing digital transformation programmes and find money to start again.

He said: “A common tech platform across the whole of local government wouldn’t be impossible, but it’s far from easy or cheap, as I have seen some suggest.

“For a digital transformation programme to a common platform to happen across local government at the same time, someone needs to fund this, 400+ times over.

“In short it would costs billions, it might save billions too, but it needs capital funding from a central source to work.”

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He said that many councils are already digging into reserves to fund one-off digital transformation programmes.

According to Rumens, asking councils to abandon these programmes and start to roll out common elements would be costly.

“They probably won’t have the resource to retrace the same steps to deliver a solution that does the same thing as they’ve just delivered, with different tech.”

Little progress has been made on the idea of centralised coordination of local government websites since it was mooted last year by Richard Copley, head of ICT at Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, in another blog post.

Copley suggested the creation of a Local Government Digital Service to oversee the standardisation and improvement of all things digital in councils.

This idea was rejected by Socitm, the body representing public sector ICT workers, which instead suggested the use of a common platform for sharing local government tools and applications.

Earlier this year, the Government Digital Service, based in the Cabinet Office, was given a remit to help improve local government digital services.

Colin Marrs

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