Today, we are excited to announce the launch of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) first edition of its Digitalisation Almanac - a new resource PUBLIC supported the LGA to develop in partnership with the local government sector. The Almanac aims to be a simple, user-friendly and practical guide for councils to think about digital transformation in a holistic way, covering a wide range of topics and themes.
Serving this central goal of practicality, the Almanac is structured around 12 key digital outcomes for councils to think about in their digital journey: Connectivity; Data; Democracy & Participation; Economic Productivity & Growth; Ethics & Sustainability; Inclusion; Leadership; Organisational Capability; Partnership; Security & Resilience; Services; and Value. Across these outcome areas, the Almanac features practical tools, guidance, frameworks and best practices from councils across the UK, alongside a clear set of targets that councils can use to benchmark their performance.
One of the unique features of the Almanac is that it is not targeted exclusively at digital teams, but intentionally caters to a range of users across local authorities - leadership, service teams, and even Councillors. In fact, we’ve been working with the LGA to roll out a training programme tailored for Councillors based on the Almanac content, and have run four successful digital training sessions already. This reflects a conviction which we at PUBLIC are deeply committed to supporting: digitalisation can and must be pursued collaboratively by all teams at all levels of local government.
To ensure the Almanac fulfils its purpose of providing actionable insights for the teams on the ground, close engagement with the sector throughout the development process was a top priority. PUBLIC engaged with 26 councils through interviews and workshops, as well as 18 broader digital and data experts in developing the Digitalisation Almanac. Speaking to both the appetite for this kind of resource and the ambition of local digital champions, councils were incredibly enthusiastic to support its development.
The Almanac is being launched today by the LGA at its Digital Showcase Conference, and we’re so excited to see it being put into action by the sector. To celebrate, we wanted to champion some of the great examples of digital leadership and innovation from councils. Below we spotlight six case studies of local councils driving digital progress across different Almanac outcome areas, providing a taste of what we hope this new resource can help boost more of within councils across the UK.
Brent Council - Data
Brent Council set up a Data Ethics Board in 2021 to bring together members around the ethical implications of data use in Brent, based on ODI’s Data Ethics Canvas framework. The Board will support the council to identify and proactively support residents and marginalised groups with the ethical use of data, as well as addressing areas where residents could be adversely impacted by data projects. The Board's membership includes legal, data and information governance experts, and is supported by officers who provide input and secretariat functions. The Board has provided advice to projects including digital exclusion; children and young people; community and resident engagement; and financial inclusion.
Cambridgeshire County Council - Ethics & Sustainability
Councils have to think about the sustainability performance of their technology systems. And we were fascinated to see Cambridgeshire County Council and UCL develop two tools to aid Scope 3 emissions reductions: a quantitative Carbon Calculator and a qualitative Code of Practice. These provide a standardised, transparent mechanism to measure emissions, and demonstrate best practice to effectively communicate a Council’s ambitions to its suppliers. The carbon calculator will improve reporting and accounting of scope 3 emissions by enabling carbon emissions to be quantified and reduction KPIs to be integrated into evaluation and contractual processes. The Code of Conduct provides transparency of the Council’s expectations of its suppliers, and enables Council staff to understand and reduce environmental implications of their procurement services.
Leeds City Council - Inclusion
Leeds City Council was one of the councils in the 2021-2022 cohort of the LGA’s Digital Pathfinders Programme, and they used the programme as a really powerful springboard to drive local digital inclusion They created a ‘Community-based model to increase digital inclusion’. The community-based model convenes different partners that already do work on digital inclusion for particular communities in Leeds. The aim is to better understand the needs of a community and co-design digital inclusion initiatives together. You follow their progress on this project Miro board.
Westminster City Council - Organisational Capability
Hiring high quality tech talent is one of the most difficult challenges faced by local councils. That’s why we have chosen this case study from Westminster City Council, who launched their Tech Lion programme in 2021, facilitated by the Apprenticeship levy, which supported 18-24 year olds into digital apprenticeships as data analysts and software engineers. Working with Multiverse, the participants spent a day at a leading tech company. This demonstrates how apprenticeships can be leveraged to improve councils’ internal technical capabilities while also supporting young people in employment.
Kirklees Council - Services
Tell us once (TUO) is a cross government initiative developed in partnership with local government, DWP, HMRC, DVLA and Passport Services where citizens can inform government just once of a birth or death. We thought the application of TUO by Kirklees Council was a particularly powerful application of the programme, with almost 90 per cent of people registering births and deaths in Kirklees using the service.
Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council - Value
Supported by DLUHC, the open-source movement in council business systems has been a key feature of the sector. An interesting example of good open-source practice came from Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, who built their own in-house income management system (IMS) which improved experiences for users and lowered running costs. They saw it would be valuable for other councils too. They got funding from the Local Digital Fund to create an open source Local Gov IMS built by local government for local government and partnered with Dorset Council and Lewisham Council. The team encourages other councils to join the project and the IMS community.
If you’d like to learn more - especially if you are a council undergoing a digital transformation journey - please don’t hesitate to reach out to Johnny (PUBLIC’s Local Government Lead, email@example.com) for a chat!
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