Public Services > Local Government

Consultations launched for local authority common digital standard

Neil Merrett Published 29 February 2016

Discussions open over plans to devise common focus for data, procurement and technology to support more effective council digital transformation


The views of council staff and other stakeholders are being sought for a draft Local Government Digital Service Standard devised to encourage use of common services and data registers between different authorities based on a similar approach used in Whitehall.

With support from the Government Digital Service (GDS), a group of councils working as part of the LocalGov Digital network has been working to finalise guidelines for a common approach to service transformation and design.

The standard, open for consultation from today, outlines 18 key recommendations including building functions based around agile and iterative approaches in line with the Government Service Design Manual. It also backs ongoing user research and testing to ensure constant feedback on work.

Other recommendations include evaluating the types of systems and tools used to build and maintain services, as well as the required procurement methods, while also considering the types of data that will be generated, how it should be stored and its wider impacts on security and privacy for authorities.

The draft standard also recommends the use of open source tools, while considering making council source code available in a similar format with appropriate licences.

Submissions are open until March 19.

Writing on the standard, LocalGov Digital vice chair Phil Rumens argued that setting out clearer common methods for digital service design at local authority level would support peer review between different organisations and wider collaboration in future.

He also argued of the potential benefits in fields such as procurement, both in terms of collective bargaining and being in a position to demand clear service standards from product suppliers.

Taking the example of the Digital by Default Service Standard that has been set out by government, Rumens said that the guidelines could be amended to be applicable for local authorities to use. These amendments had additionally required conditions over the re-use of common data or registers that are expected to be increasingly important for authorities.

"If you work for a council I urge you to get involved to help deliver, not a business case or a nudge in the right direction, but the first

Local Government Digital Service Standard for councils," Rumens said. "The more of us that do, the stronger it will be which can only be a good thing for the people we serve."

In response to ongoing work around the standard, Buckinghamshire County Council digital head Mathew Cain called for authorities to work together in areas like negotiating with suppliers to ensure common goals and needs of councils were better being met.

"It will be much more powerful than going it alone," he wrote earlier this month following a workshop of over 30 local government practitioners held at GDS on the standard.

Cain noted that Buckinghamshire had last year implemented a digital service standard in November that is designed to be applied to all new functions it develops.

"We consciously followed the central government standard. That's important for our users - we can give them consistency between central and local government digital services. But it also avoids us reinventing the wheel," he said.

"The central government approach, led by GDS, has been tested at scale. When they find a fault, they will do so more quickly than we will. And we can then change accordingly."

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