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Disappointment that Spending Review digital boost ignores need and opportunity to join up services across place

IT and digital leaders in local public services are disappointed that the substantial boost for digital transformation announced in the Spending Review is focused on central government and NHS services, ignoring the pressing need to join up public services locally.

Socitm, the professional association for IT and digital professionals working in local public services says:
The government is investing £1.8 billion in digital transformation, but the focus is on central government delivered services such as digital tax accounts and building one payment mechanism for all central government services. This is limited aspiration when there are so many benefits to be derived from developing holistic, citizen-focused, digitally transformed services, co-designed and co-delivered locally.
£1 billion is to be invested in new technology over the next 5 years to deliver better connected services within health. However, investing in digital health without investing in digital social care means transformational efficiencies, and better outcomes for citizens will simply not be reaped. The two services need to be joined up across place using common and shared digital technologies.
The Spending Review talks about digitising services and stronger collaboration between different parts of the public sector, but there is no further detail.  The Government Digital Service is cited as ‘the digital, data and technology centre for government, supporting departments as they transform their business operations, setting best practice and ensuring quality of services’. The stated ambition is that by 2020 ‘citizens to have the option to pay online for every central government service, including passports, driving licences and motoring fees.’ There is no mention of any interest in or commitment to supporting the digital transformation of locally delivered services.
Socitm welcomes the concept of the Common Technology Services programme, but rather than being restricted to the Civil Service, this needs to embrace local public services to support pan-government co-design and co-delivery.
Socitm also welcomes acknowledgement of ‘Government As A Platform’, a new way of delivering digital services that will provide a common set of core systems that enable sharing digital services, technology and processes, and the commitment to develop the GOV.UK Verify programme to enable individuals to prove their identity online and to access government services securely and safely. However, these developments must not be restricted to government departments and central government services, they must be made freely available for all public services to use.

In short, the focus of the Spending Review’s digital boost must shift from ‘Whitehall’ to local communities if citizens are to benefit properly from the digital opportunity.

Further information

Martin Ferguson, Director of Policy and Research, Socitm, 07931 456 238

Vicky Sargent, Socitm Press Office, 07726 601139

Note for editors:

Socitm and the Local CIO Council are to publish proposals before the end of the year about how digital innovation can be developed small and local across place, and then be rolled out across other localities.