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Ben Cheetham · local gov digital

Launch of the Local Digital Declaration

It feels like a long time coming, but today the Local Digital Declaration was formally launched at the LGA Conference. You can read more about it on the new Local Digital website but in summary it’s a statement of intent around local public services that has been co-published by 40 organisations including the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and a number of local authorities including both Kingston and Sutton.

I’m a relative newcomer to transformation in local government but I’ve already seen lots of attempts to collectively fix some of the challenges local government and local public services face. As Phil writes, we’ve had alliances and coalitions over the years but they’ve amounted to little practical delivery of things other than a good opportunity to exchange notes.

The DCLG Local Digital Programme, whilst it existed, did some fantastic work in my opinion to practically bring the sector together and was even able to develop what was a hobby project started by me, Dan Blundell and Paul Mackay at LocalGovCamp 2014 into something. But then the funding ran out and the programme closed.

There’s been a void since, and whilst the Local Digital Coalition hosted some of the assets the lack of top-down central government support and funding has meant it was never able to continue the good work. Andrew Campbell did some great work to keep it going but the challenges the sector faces need more than a part-time secretariat.

At LocalGov Digital, we’ve been able to achieve some good things but not at the pace we’d like - because it’s something we all do in our spare time over and above our day jobs.

The Declaration

In December last year I was privileged to be invited to contribute to what has become the declaration. It’s been a collaborative effort from across both local and central government as well as membership groups and it’s been great to see the level of interest in coming together but also how aligned people were. The collaboration part has been really important. This is not being thrust on local government by central, it’s been an open effort by a very wide collection of stakeholders.

Another difference compared to previous attempts is it’s the organisation, the whole council, being signed up. At Kingston and Sutton, we’ve got support from the members, including the leader as well as the chief executives and leadership teams (well done Mark!) which is crucial because as every digital team within a council will know, this is as much about culture and organisation change as it technology. At the launch today it was also announced there will be a leadership academy to help develop and grow digital leadership at the top tiers which I hope will help embed the values and the approaches we aspire to in digital teams.

Finally, there’s also funding this time. Both for a team at MHCLG and for councils to use. The MHCLG team, known as the Local Collaboration Unit, is there to support solving some of the common challenges but also help scale the good work that is already going on across the sector so we’re not always starting from scratch and duplicating.

Watch Rishi Sunak (Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) launching the declaration at the LGA Conference:

We all need to get behind it

I feel this is a real opportunity, that there hasn’t been before (certainly not whilst I’ve worked in local government) to do things differently and be a catalyst for things like - breaking the hold of the big IT suppliers often have; really working together to meet needs; and for digital teams in councils to get the support they often need from the top level so it’s not just about IT and making a shiny looking website.

Get involved, get your organisation involved and I look forward to seeing you at LocalGovCamp 2018 in September for the signing!