The government has been urged to extend the Government Digital Service’s remit to support local council departments by the Vice Chairman of LocalGov, Phil Rumens.

In a recent interview, Rumens said: “The GDS has achieved some amazing things and the funding announced in last year’s Spending Review will allow them to do even more great work, transforming government departments and services. However, local government has not been so fortunate.”

“I’m proposing extending both the GDS’ expertise and platforms to local government, allowing them to work closely with councils.

“For example, allowing councils to use the payment platform the GDS are developing would save the taxpayer millions of pounds a year whilst providing the public with a better service, and that’s just one small element of the GDS’ work.”

Other ideas Rumens proposed included the sharing of data through registers, which he believes would reduce duplication between councils and central and local government.

In addition, Rumens suggested that the government should create a new body to co-ordinate and improve local digital services. He said that this wouldn’t take a great deal of resource – only requiring a few people to join the dots.

He believes the body would allow for better knowledge transfer between councils, including standards for data and services, and a bigger role for local communities to help influence the creation of digital services.

Rumens added: “It just needs a few people to start to join things up between councils, central government, and everyone else looking to improve the digital services the public sector offers.

“The outcome would be better, cheaper digital services. Currently, there is no network or organisation able to deliver this at scale, or it would already be happening.”

Rumens believes that a new body could help the GDS to work with local councils more effectively: “The GDS team work in the open, and some councils already use the resources they have online such as the Government Service Design Manual. However, extending the GDS’ remit to local public services would provide hands-on expertise in delivering world-class digital services locally. This could be co-ordinated by the new body, so the GDS team don’t have to visit all 400+ councils’ regional network, or hubs that may be created.”

Should the government extend the GDS’ remit to include support for local councils? Would the move encourage wider digital adoption?

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