outsourcing stock

Socitm is exploring how local government can best address inconsistency, waste and duplicated effort across its digital activity.

Socitm, which represents public sector IT managers, has rejected the idea of setting up a single local 'GOV.UK' style website to replace the existing individual sites run by the UK's 433 local authorities.

In a briefing issued today as part of its response to the debate around the proposal, Socitm elaborated on the reasons behind its decision to reject it, and showcased some other forms of digital asset and resource sharing that might decrease duplication and save money.

The briefing provided some recent, successful examples of sharing between local authorities.

For example, it highlighted 'Connect Digitally', a central government funded scheme set up in 2009 to help councils move applications for school admissions and free school meals online. The project led to 80% national take-up for online school admissions and reduced the application process from three months to three minutes, Socitm said.

The project meant that a range of stakeholders, including suppliers, had to agree minimum features and functions, agree standards, and develop tools and products for adaptation by councils and schools. The initiative demonstrated the effectiveness of 'scaling innovation and transferring solutions' across local government, according to Socitm.

Socitm also highlighted the 'Planning Portal', another central government funded scheme which helped local planning authorities move to online planning. The authorities had to work with suppliers to move to paperless planning in all its forms, with 60% of planning applications now being submitted online.

In a briefing at the end of this month Socitm will consider the benefits of open source and open standards and how the public sector can make best use of the latest technologies. It will explore how both of these can help to support the digital sharing agenda in local government.

The idea of a single website for local government has been promoted by think tank Policy Exchange and Rotherham council CIO Richard Copley, plus a number of figures at the Government Digital Service (GDS).

Socitm's immediate response was to reject the suggestion. The association said that the idea was 'deeply flawed', adding that it was 'ill-conceived and should not be attempted'.

It claimed that the single website would not provide significant cost savings and would contradict the principles of democracy and accountability that are central to local government.

In today's briefing, Socitm highlighted a number of local authorities who have already chosen to share websites. For example, councils in Dorset have combined their websites into 'Dorset For You', and Adur and Worthing councils have a single online presence.

Other councils have chosen to share the same template for their website, such as Allerdale and Carlisle City councils, and South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse councils.