The LocalGov Digital Network Steering Group would like to provide a formal response to the consultation regarding the recent suggested savings within the LGA (Local Government Association).
Our response is in three broad areas, which we believe are intrinsically linked to the current Business Plan of the LGA, and in particular support the following objectives it lists:
Public service reform
independent councils are at the centre, and seen to be at the centre, of public service reform, delivering more effective services for local people and holding other providers to account
Sector-led support, improvement and innovation
At the heart of all this work, are our core services to councils which are driven by our belief in sector-led improvement.
Supporting local government as the most efficient and accountable part of the public sector, the LGA will play a leading role in improvement and innovation so that councils can continue to make a difference in their local areas and to the lives of their residents.
Source: LGA Business plan 2013/14http://www.local.gov.uk/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=e2f772ff-1c5e-4ed5-a35c-20a3d57b97e5&groupId=10171
As a steering group we recognise that the LGA must make savings and we applaud the leadership that is being shown to question all aspects of current service delivery but we also wish to make the LGA Leadership team aware of the critical roles being played by various parts of the organisation in particular those staff within the Digital Communications and Knowledge Team.
Our response has been triggered by the public announcement that the Knowledge Hub could potentially be closed down as one of the options to save money.
It goes without saying that in the current climate collaboration across and within the public sector is critical and whilst the internet and social web provide a layer of collaborative features and platforms, the sector would benefit from a core provision of collaborative tools.
The LGA should look at how any platform is funded, resourced and it would be reasonable to create a model which could be self-financing over a short period of time. This approach however doesn’t mean that LGA itself has to directly provide a platform, but it should ensure that a platform which meets core needs is available and promoted across the sector and beyond.
Our view as a Steering Group is that if one of the core objectives of the LGA is to support and encourage sector wide improvement then collaboration in and across the sector is a critical component of that. It would then be reasonable to suggest that LGA should consider how this objective is met, whether directly or indirectly.
Whilst we recognise that the Khub is used by over 150,000 members there are some challenges around its usability and effectiveness as a sector wide collaboration platform moving forward.
We would not want to see the removal of a platform altogether without at least a recognition of what can and could replace it for the wider network of members and a managed process to migrate and move users seamlessly to ensure continued success.
Facilitation and Influence
One of the key roles the LGA plays is facilitation and influencing across the sector and beyond – any savings being sought within the LGA should ensure that these critical roles are maintained and remain effective.
The LocalGov Digital Steering Group has been assisted through the LGA, particularly the Digital Communications and Knowledge Team, taking on this role, understanding what we want to achieve and supporting us to form a practical, actionable plan of work.
Invaluable work has been done to support the formation of the steering group and wider network through the joining up of disparate groups of influencers in local and central government, the wider public sector and private sector agencies.
It is fair to say that without this facilitation and influence role being so competently carried out by teams within the LGA the LocalGov Network would not be part of the newly formed Digital Alliance. We call upon the LGA to consider as part of this consultation the cost not only of providing this resource, but the potential financial cost and impact to collaborative working – on an already pressurised local government sector – of taking it away.
It is widely accepted and acknowledged that in order for any collaborative environment to succeed then a level of community management is critical.
Along with the many voluntary community managers that currently help to make the KHub effective for so many groups – staff within the LGA play a critical role in community managing a number of groups to ensure the conversation and collaboration continues.
With any collaboration platform or range of tools in place, community management is an essential role in ensuring success. Without this there is a greater reliance of voluntary roles which increase the risk of failure when collaboration is so important.
The LocalGov Digital Steering Group, on behalf of the wider network of digital practitioners in the sector, call upon the LGA to provide reassurance that they will continue to support and promote cross sector collaboration, champion innovation, service design and transformation as part of the wider public sector reform agenda.
We also seek reassurances that the LGA will continue to resource the facilitation and community management roles vital to transforming local public services.