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The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) has found that local councillors are not ‘digital dinosaurs’ as they investigate digital technology, governance and leadership in local authorities.
Cllr Theo Blackwell, author of the Start of the Possible report, found that local councillors hold strong and positive views about technology, automation and data and how public services can benefit from them.
With digital exclusion and connectivity still considered the number one concern among councillors, there remains a strong and widespread view that current data-sharing arrangements are not effective. However, the survey found that there is clear backing for digital to be included in thinking around devolution and a thirst for councillors to be better supported to understand more about technology and transformation in all its forms.
Theo Blackwell said: “Successful digital transformation requires redesign on every level — workforce, customer service, process, governance and technology — to make public services faster at doing things, more adaptable, able to share more information and do so securely.
“For this to happen we need to support digital leadership right across our cities and counties in order to make public services more effective and make a difference to the people and communities they represent. This research shows that the vast majority of councillors are not 'digital dinosaurs', but hold positive views about the application of technology to public services and how councils should work together and share data.
“We need to translate that into action. There is a good foundation built by those leading councils who have set out bold digital plans. There is now a need for proper co-ordination between authorities supported by a new deal with Whitehall."
Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of LGiU, added: “Much has been written about the shift to digital in local government and public services more generally. Such a shift represents an opportunity, almost uniquely, to drive down costs while simultaneously improving outcomes. But that's not just a question of doing the same things better online, it's about using digital as a way of thinking and connecting, of driving a cultural and relational attitude that changes how we think about what local government does and how it interacts with the communities it serves.
“Start of the Possible makes an important contribution to this conversation by explicitly focusing on digital leadership, including a national survey of councillors which reveals their real attitudes to digital local government.”