A report released this week has urged councils to embrace the digital age or face missing out on millions of pounds of savings. Our feature writer, Suzanne Danon, explores the report.
The DCLG commissioned report Local Digital Today which was written by Local Digital Campaign and UKAuthority has highlighted that councils have the potential to save £5bn over the course of the next decade.
Councils described as ‘town hall trailblazers’ are saving millions of pounds by putting services online. Digital technologies are generating estimated national savings of £322m a year across councils, a figure which could reach £500m if all English councils adopted a digital approach.
Local Digital Today highlights that the majority of councils have now started updating services to be tech-led, but a third of councils are still ‘clinging to the analogue age’.
A number of barriers are cited by respondents in the report for holding back digital development including the following top five: Legacy systems/and ICT infrastructure (86%); lack of development funds (67.3%), unwillingness to change/non-cooperation of colleagues; lack of in-house digital skills; and, culturally uncomfortable for the organisation.
But despite these obstacles, which the report descried as ‘serious’, Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins called for all councils to harness the power of digital urgently, especially in such ‘austere times’. He said the decision by councils to remain analogue was holding back their local areas and costing hardworking families. He added that increasing citizen expectations and demographic change were additional reasons for local authorities to use the latest technologies and design effective services for those with ‘multiple and complex needs’.
“Can do councils have led the way by proving that hundreds of millions of pounds can be saved every single year just by waking up to the digital dawn. It is high time the rest of local government follows suit.” said Mr Hopkins.
“As this report suggests, the sensible use of what have become commonplace ‘every day’ technologies could deliver at least £5bn in savings over the course of a decade. This is money which could be ploughed back into improving frontline services and keeping Council Tax down.”
He added: “If every council which hasn’t already done so was to learn from those leading authorities they too would be able to make such sensible savings and deliver a better deal for local taxpayers.”
The research revealed average savings made by councils which have gone digital have increased from £1 million a year ago to £1.4 million in 2014, showing the potential savings on offer is continuing to rise.
To read the full report go to GOV.UK
What do you think of the findings? How can local government overcome the barriers cited by the report? And how can we all learn from the trailblazers?
We think using Knowledge Hub can support councils in sharing practice, reducing costs and changing ways of working. Getting involved in and setting up groups is a great start, but look out for more information about our Social Hub project very soon.