In a recent article by Socitm, ‘No to single local government website, yes to common platform for local government tools and applications’, the idea of creating a common platform for local authorities (“LAs”) is heralded as a digitally enabling and essential concept for citizens and businesses to access local services.
LAs are independent and democratically accountable, with increasing responsibility due to the Localism Act 2011, which is devolving more decision making powers away from central government, back to communities and councils, to service the people’s needs in that area. LAs therefore require specific services with local democratic engagement.
Socitm were responding to recent calls for a single local government website – an idea which they have rejected on the grounds that it ‘ignores the independence of local authorities as organisations that have different democratic mandates and priorities... local government is exactly that. Local requirements, whether of geography, size, demographics or politics, must continue to drive council websites.’
With differences in services offered, democratic processes and population demographics -integration between a central government website and local authorities would negate any cost savings, with increased outsourcing requirements and complicated systems, as well as disruptions to service levels.
However, Soctim actively supports the sharing of software tools and applications used in local government, including those that support self-service delivery.
Managing Director of PDMS, Chris Gledhill welcomes the article commenting, “We have always advocated the idea of common platforms to help reduce duplication and deliver cost savings – it’s at the core of our approach to delivering successful technology projects. What LA’s need is a common platform which puts the customer at the centre and then they (the LA’s) can build services their customers want to be part of. This actively supports the sharing of information across the different authorities and councils, saving costs through shared software tools, API, code, platform assets and applications, whilst working towards a more joined-up Government.
We have seen the inflexible one size fits all approach tried and fail many times, often costing the taxpayers millions in the process – for instance the NHS National Programme for IT. It is time to adopt a more citizen-centric approach more reflective of the digital age - even to the extent of giving citizens ownership of their own data”.
As an example of the ‘build once and share’ model – PDMS have launched PDMS Employed - a ready-to-use platform that supports LAs’ efforts to address employability issues – helping to connect skills, employment and education in their local area. PDMS believe that the best way for the public sector to deliver complex services online, to a high standard of usability, performance and security, is to adopt a user-centric approach, with the public taking ownership of their own data and service needs via a central portal for LAs.
Investing in this approach will not only lead to long term cost savings, avoiding duplication of resources, data, procurement and scope, but will reduce the Government’s dependence on inflexible and large IT projects.
Employed has been created to address the core issues that many LA’s are facing in relation to employment, particularly in the area of youth engagement, whilst at the same time being flexible enough to support a range of additional services.
In September 2013, the Cabinet Offices’ review of employment, education and training for 16-24 year olds, called for the collaboration of colleges, Jobcentre Plus and LAs to work together as one careers hub in each area. Whilst In February, Nick Clegg also proposed that all local councils should have a “one stop” website for jobs and careers, run by LAs.
For further commentary on joining up government or software solutions for LAs, or to find out more about PDMS’ Employed platform please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.