A new paper, Council of the future: A digital guide for councillors, launched today by techUK, the leading voice for the UK technology industry, sets out how the technologies of today and tomorrow can re-imagine public services to create the ‘council of the future.’ It presents some advice for the newly elected and incumbent councillors on how to confidently begin the conversations around digital with peers and officers to engender change and build capacity across the council, whilst also delivering the best possible service and outcomes to residents.
Councils are faced with a range of challenges: from demographic change, environmental crime, housing and adult social care, to employment opportunities. Set against a backdrop of rising citizen expectations and budget cuts, this poses a significant public policy challenge for elected officials. These challenges can no longer be faced alone, and digital presents the opportunity to do things differently. Fundamental to successful transformation is having strong digital leadership, and that means councillors must understand digital. It is no longer just the responsibility of the IT team.
With over 100 newly elected councillors, this timely guide, provides a blueprint on what needs to be done and the questions needed to be asked to ensure the right leadership is in place to deliver meaningful transformation that improves outcomes for citizens. Key considerations for councillors should be:
- Putting in place the right digital leadership. Digital leadership must be formalised in terms of its authority to instigate change within the organisation. The structure of formalised Digital Leadership could take the form of Digital Champions, Chief Digital Officer (CDO), or through the establishment of a Digital Board.
- Early market engagement. What are the current mechanisms in place for pre-procurement engagement? By engaging with the technology market early, councils will be able to access the latest innovations and workshop through with partners what the art of the possible is.
- Putting user needs first. To build relationships with residents, it is important that citizens can engage in the way they prefer. This could be both face-to-face or digitally. A citizen-centric approach should be taken by working closely with the community to tackle digital exclusion.
Georgina Maratheftis, programme manager for local government at techUK, said:
“By grasping the digital agenda and having a digital-first mindset, councillors can be at the forefront of spearheading the transformation of the area into a ‘smart community’ where citizens are empowered to shape services and create the places where they want to live. We hope this guide will act as a useful tool for both the new and incumbent councillors to have the right conversations about digital. The case studies in the guide show that digital is more than just achieving cost savings but about breaking down barriers; aiding collaboration and renewing local democracy and trust. We look forward to working with the councillors across the UK to help them realise their digital ambitions and reimagine what 21st century local services look like.”