Digital must be part of councils’ executive and political leadership, report recommends

Written by Sam Trendall on 31 August 2018 in News
News

Guide for councillors from techUK offers advice for how to embrace digital

Local authorities should ensure digital expertise is a feature of both their executive and political leadership, a report from techUK has recommended.

The industry body has published Council of the Future: A digital guide for councillors which contains a range of information and advice on digital and data issues. The report’s introduction advises councillors that, in a time of rising demand for services and budget reductions, using digital technologies can be “an enabler to doing things differently and deliver more efficient services and improve outcomes for citizens”.

The report goes on to make recommendations in a number of areas:
 

Senior management
“Digital leadership must be formalised in terms of its authority to instigate change within the organisation,” techUK recommended. “The structure of formalised digital leadership could take the form of digital champions, a chief digital officer, or through the establishment of a digital board.”
 

Cabinet
The report suggested that digital should form the basis of the portfolio of a council cabinet member. This reflects the need for digital to be treated as a foundational element of service delivery that cuts across all areas of operation – and not just an IT function, it added.
 

Data
Councillors are encouraged to take steps to open up data to local citizens and businesses. This could not only provide economic benefits, but will allow suppliers to propose potential solutions to service-delivery challenges. Elected officials should also pledge to make decisions informed by the effective use of data, the report recommended. 
 

Inclusion
Councillors should work with local schools, libraries, and voluntary organisation to ensure citizens have the connectivity access and skills needed to use digital services.
 

Democracy
Digital can play an important role in ensuring turnout for local elections is as high as possible, councillors are advised. This could take the form of asking citizens to provide input on services in development, or by using social media to communicate more transparently. 
 

Suppliers
The report acknowledges that it can be “difficult for local government to be on top of what the latest innovations are” in the technology space. This being the case, councils are encouraged to engage with the market as early in their development or procurement processes. This, techUK said, will help elected officials better appreciate “the art of the possible”.
 

Georgina Maratheftis, programme manager for local government at techUK, said: “By grasping the digital agenda and having a digital-first mindset, councillors can be at the forefront of spearheading the transformation of the area into a smart community, where citizens are empowered to shape services and create the places where they want to live. We hope this guide will act as a useful tool for both the new and incumbent councillors to have the right conversations about digital.”

Click here to access a full copy of the report – which includes more advice and insight, as well as case studies of digital projects at a number of local authorities across the UK.

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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