Socitm ‘not comfortable’ with Labour plans for GDS

Socitm has saidit is “not fully comfortable” for the Government Digital Service (GDS) to be given the remit to work with local government, as proposed in a Labour-commissioned report released last week.

The review said expanding GDS’ responsibilities to include local authorities as well as central government would help to save over £50 million.

However Socitm, which represents public and third-sector IT managers, outside Whitehall,  said “no authority exists” to impose GDS’s central government responsibilities onto the local sector.

Socitm claimed that trying to replicate GDS’s mandate of disrupting and changing central departments would “stifle local innovation and adaptability to local contexts”.

The association said it recognised “the high value in much work undertaken by GDS” and is keen to engage in joint activities wherever possible.

However it said the focus should be on GDS producing reusable “best practice assets” and advising local government rather than directing it from Whitehall.

It warned Labour should note that one of the weaknesses of past IT transformation schemes “has been a lack of willingness by central government to work through local government”.

Socitm said a call to set up ‘local digital factories’ in the report aligned with its idea for a ‘local GDS’ published in a briefing in September.

The organisation should be made up of as a team of advisors on hand to help digital teams in local authorities, promote best practice and opportunities for sharing digital assets, Socitm said.

The group endorsed some parts of the review, including a recognition of the potential cost savings and increased productivity that can be achieved through digital transformation.

Socitm agreed with Labour that this can be best achieved through common platforms, open standards, open data and open APIs.

It also welcomed “the recognition that most public services are delivered at a local level”.

Other notable ideas in the report included one day of digital training a year for all civil servants, publishing online feedback on suppliers and enshrining a right to good internet access via Ofcom.

It also said the government should set up an expert technology ethics body to consider issues such as healthcare data and driverless cars.

Labour’s report was written by a team of independent experts, advisors and volunteers, led by telecoms professional Peter Wells.

The group received input from 2,000 individuals plus 80 submissions from organisations or companies.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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