Senior local leaders need to do more to champion digital innovation in their own authorities, four professional bodies have said.
In a joint position paper, the Local Government Association, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, the Local CIO Council, and the public sector ICT representative body Socitm, call on senior figures to become role models for the better use of technology.
The paper says that public services cannot continue to be delivered in the way they are at the moment, and that there will need to be a “wholesale rethink” about what services can be delivered in the future.
Martin Ferguson, director of policy and research at Socitm and a co-author of the report, said that some services, such as social care and adoption, have had “failure built into them at every stage”, with work carried out in silos and issues with duplication of information.
“We’ve lost sight of the outcome that needs to be achieved,” he said, adding that the delivery of some services will need a “complete re-imagination”.
Digital innovation will play a vital role in these changes, the paper says, adding that local leaders need to be given the freedom to think of innovative ways to ensure the sustainability of their local services.
However, Ferguson said that this would also require a change in leadership practices. “There’s a growing recognition that we can’t carry on with the older models and ways of leading,” he said.
He added that it was crucial that local leaders facilitated discussions with those involved at every level of service delivery. “It’s a case of trying things out – not saying that we know best.”
The paper sets out a number of examples of good practice, which it says other local authorities should build on.
These include the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham’s integrated, secure online single sign-on, self-service portal a range of services, including council tax and business permits, and the integrated digital health and social care record across local partners in Leeds.
In addition to sharing across local government, the paper says that collaborations should include central government, the NHS and other public sector bodies. It adds that this will be particularly important as services become more devolved.