Government unveils £7.5m funding and training scheme to boost local authority digital work
MHCLG and GDS also publish ‘digital declaration’ for councils to sign up to
The government has created a £7.5m fund to help local authorities embrace digital and “develop common solutions to their shared challenges”.
Councils will shortly be able to bid for a slice of the innovation fund, which was launched this week in Birmingham by local government minister Rishi Sunak at the annual conference of the Local Government Association.
“Whether it’s an app to report fly-tipping, or slick online services to pay your council tax, many local authorities are at the forefront of digital innovation,” he said. “But there’s much more to do. Digital doesn’t belong in the basement, it belongs in the boardroom.”
Alongside the funding pot, the government will also develop a new digital leadership skills training course for local authority senior managers.
The money and training initiatives will be backed up by The Local Digital Declaration, which councils can now sign up to. The declaration, which was published this week, was developed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, working alongside the Government Digital Service.
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The document contains two sets of commitments: one for local-authority senior managers, service managers, board members, and councillors; and another for IT, digital, and transformation teams.
This includes pledges for leaders to “make sure that digital expertise is central to our decision-making”, as well as ensuring that senior staff and politicians openly and visibly champion transformation and working in the open.
Digital professionals, meanwhile, will commit to driving reuse of code and common components, and testing services currently being developed against a specialised local government service standard to be launched by GDS in September.
“I want councils and partners across the country to sign up to this declaration,” said Surak. “By supporting each other and building on each other’s work, we can revolutionise services for our residents.”
The declaration is built around five key principles for councils to abide by: “we will go even further to redesign our services around the needs of the people using them”; “we will ‘fix our plumbing’ to break our dependence on inflexible and expensive technology”; “we will design safe, secure and useful ways of sharing information”; “we will demonstrate digital leadership, creating the conditions for genuine organisational transformation to happen”; and “we will embed an open culture that values, incentivises and expects digital ways of working from every member of our workforce”.
Alongside GDS and MHCLG, a number of other central government agencies and industry bodies are already signed up to the declaration, as are a range of local authorities, including councils in Camden, Essex, Milton Keynes, Leeds, and Cambridgeshire.
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