Council collaboration catches on

Georgina Maratheftis of techUK runs through a busy and productive month of partnerships for the local authority digital and technology sector

Credit: Adobe Stock

November was full of exciting announcements for local government transformation and, as we move towards the end of the year, we have the festive feeling that everyone is working together better. 

Collaboration is hard, but it is doable, as Paul Maltby, chief digital officer at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said at techUK’s Building the Smarter State conference in September. And, as with some of our family relationships around this time of the year, it is important that we come together, work through our challenges and build a positive 2020 and future.    

We saw some great successes last month on this front with the Welsh Government pledging £500,000 per year for a new unit to support digital initiatives in local government. It also announced plans to appoint a chief digital officer for local government (CDOLG), with a focus on enabling true collaboration with the private sector, 

We’re moving away from it being another buzzword to seeing it happening across some parts of local government across the country. 

The metro mayors, with their direct and convening powers, can use their unique position to accelerate the pace of transformation, working closely with public sector, the community and industry

The fragmented nature of local government can make it difficult to collaborate but vehicles such as the new London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI) are making it possible. It takes a coalition of the willing to get it started, and soon others will follow. 

LOTI will act as a collaborative vehicle to strengthen the London boroughs’ ability to innovate, build common capability and scale up digital innovation across the capital’s public services. It aims to bring together the best of digital, technology and data to improve public services for Londoners. 

To do this, LOTI launched the City Tools: London report and interactive dashboard. The dashboard aims to enable possible collaborations between local authorities, identify opportunities for new entrants and innovators into the government technology market, and drive cost savings by coordinating contracts and leveraging boroughs’ collective bargaining power.

With the right data, the dashboard will not only be of value to the boroughs but also to new entrants and suppliers to better understand well in advance the potential opportunities. Often the difficulty for suppliers in this market is the lack of pipeline visibility. The dashboard will go some way to addressing this challenge. But this collaboration is not just about creating better conditions for local public services to work together, it is also about suppliers engaging in genuine and meaningful partnership. 

If done right, the LOTI model provides an excellent example for other regions of how local authorities can work together to make the most of digital technology and data to deliver better public services to citizens, as recommended in techUK’s 2019 manifesto – Towards a better future

Metro mayors
There is no better starting point then the metro mayors driving this. We currently have eight metro mayors, with the next combined authority mayoral elections for four of the regions to take place next year. 

Elected mayors can put digital at the heart of their plans by putting in place the leadership required to deliver real change and better outcomes by reshaping services to create better places to live and drive regional growth.

The mayors, with their direct and convening powers, can use their unique position to accelerate the pace of transformation, working closely with public sector, the community and industry. In the West Midlands we have seen the launch of the Office for Data Analytics, numerous digital summits in Manchester and this week the launch of the Digital Salford Strategy.

There are pockets of excellence across the country and there could be a whole article dedicated to each of the great digital projects currently in progress. We need to showcase the success and learn from failures if we want to scale the innovation that is happening. 

This week techUK is hosting its third annual Council of the Future campaign looking at everything from how digital is reimaging local public service to the relationship with citizens and the workplace. Throughout 2020 we want to showcase the good things happening as well as lessons learnt so get in touch if you have any stories to share, or want to run a workshop on how technology can improve outcomes. 

May all our hopes and dreams for digitally transformed public services become true.


Sam Trendall

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