A voyage of discovery through February - different perspectives on the vision and shape of Tomorrow's Public Services and how these might sit with the Government ICT Strategy.
Given the impending General Election, the pace of thinking about Tomorrow's Public Services appears to be quickening. I was able to attend and contribute to a series of events during February that examined the theme; the Government ICT Strategy was published; we published our policy response; and work began on defining the content of one key element - G-cloud and its associated services.
I represented Socitm at a number of seminars, workshops and other events during the month that explored issues relevant to our top policy priority of Tomorrow's Public Services. Breakthrough - how to enter the new territory of financial austerity and rising demand/expectations, while doing more and better, with managed risk - figured strongly at these events. Notable amongst them were:
The Guardian Public Services Summit thrived on thought leadership, with speakers and delegates from across the spectrum of public services - public, third and private sectors - and academia, politics and think tanks. Speakers included the Right Hon. Paul Martin, former Minister of Finance (and subsequently Premier) of Canada, who gave a compelling account of how his government had engaged with the citizens of Canada to 'rescue' the country from a massive budget deficit in the 1990s. Other sessions looked at the breakthroughs that could be achieved in service design and delivery by innovation, co-production and self improvement (Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive of Barking and Dagenham and soon to take up the post of Managing Director of the Improvement & Development Agency); 'Easy Barnet' (Mike Freer, ex-Leader, LB of Barnet) ; the long term view (Sir Andrew Foster of the Commission for Public Services 2020); the role of the third sector in its many different guises; and much more of relevance to Socitm's policy work in this area.
Capgemini made available its collaborative working
environment and the Technovision concept
to a group of interested Socitm members to look at how Local Public Service
Delivery organisations (LPSDO) can work together to share insights and gain a
new understanding of emerging technologies to help enable delivery of more
efficient services. Issues we addressed included:
- How IT can support a 20% reduction in the cost of running local government.
- How IT can potentially support a new government.
- How to share information more effectively
- How new IT can provide continued delivery of local government services whilst reducing spend.
- To identify and prioritise technology opportunities to address the business drivers.
- To build a shared view of what the future technology landscape could potentially contain.
- To explore what the considerations should be for joint working and communities of interest.
Sir Ian Blair (former Metropolitan Police Commissioner) gave an impassioned plea for locally determined, cost effective solutions at a CIPFA-HM Treasury seminar.
This theme was taken further at a SOLACE event where Martin Reeves (Chief Executive, Coventry MBC) and Mike Attwood (Programme Director, Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Total Place project) gave a frank and considered analysis of their Total Place project. Prof. Sue Richards (National School of Government) followed with an academic treatise on 'whole systems' thinking relevant to the future of public services. Katherine Kerswell (SOLACE President and Chief Executive, Northamptonshire CC) spoke on the new financial landscape, while Bill Hall (Deloitte) and Mark Biggs (Chief Information Officer, Essex CC) gave an insight into Essex' transformation project and its potential use of cloud computing.
At the Intellect-Socitm Local Government Supplier Forum this month I gave a presentation on the implications of the Total Place approach for information handling and technology strategy in Tomorrow's Public Services.
A series of early evening Public Policy and Management Association seminars in conjunction with Accenture have explored the theme of Local Government of the Future, including sessions by Stephen Hughes (Chief Executive, Birmingham CC) and Cllr. David Parsons (Chair, LGA Improvement Board and Leader, Leicestershire CC) on the value and experience of the Total Place approach and by David Walker(Managing Director, Communications, Audit Commission) arguing that the experience of history and other countries suggest that the age of austerity will not favour localism.
Similar, early evening events at the LSE have included challenging sessions on Shared Services IT Procurement with Professor Helen Margetts (Oxford Internet Institute) and Dr Mark Thompson (Judge Business School, Cambridge University).
I represented Socitm at a EURIM parliamentary roundtable which explored the subject of Uncovering the truth: using information to deliver more for less. Steve Bundred (Audit Commission) kicked off with an exposition of The Truth is Out There, while discussion centred around the opportunities and risks associated with more open approach to sharing data in developing future public services. You can listen to the discussion at:
So, where does all this take us? For Socitm, our interest lies in how more intelligent innovation and improvement of information handling and deployment of technology can enable the breakthrough into Tomorrow's Public Services. Many of the points of view covered above have direct relevance to our case. Our thinking is developed in my LGC webcast and is being taken forward in collaboration with the Local Government Association and the Improvement & Development Agency. Our National Conference workshops will give us the opportunity to explore some specific aspects of information handling and technology deployment to support our vision for Tomorrow's Public Services in more detail.
Beyond this, our plan is to produce guidance - the 'how to' - for Government Ministers and their advisers, for local politicians, for the other professions, and for our members and the different sectors that they represent. We can expect to deploy a wide range of communications to convey our messages.
All this activity on envisioning the shape of Tomorrow's Public Services provided a strong basis for commenting on the Government ICT Strategy. In our policy briefing, published halfway through the month, we made the case that it was exactly this vision that is needed to give the strategy a firm footing in what is required on the ground by locally delivered public services.
On successive days, the Cloud, or to be more precise, the G-cloud was rolled back at two workshops to reveal the emerging landscape of services beneath. Martin Bellamy and his team from the Cabinet Office took the Local CIO Council through their vision for the G-cloud. The following day, Dilip Parmar of CLG and colleagues from Deloitte and a range of suppliers entreated around 50 Socitm members and others to their suggestions for 'quick wins'. Both days gave plenty of opportunity for Socitm members to offer their ideas, which are now being developed further.
These workshops were helpful in giving me a sense of Socitm's emerging perspective on G-cloud, as I had been called to a so-called 'starting gate' interview being conducted for the Cabinet Office team on just this topic. I talked about what would represent success for local public services, which services would need to be effectively engaged and what we might expect in terms of engagement and management of suppliers.
Later in the month I fed more detailed information from the workshops into the Socitm Insight Briefing on G-cloud, which is now available for download.
I met Mary McKenna and Dave Briggs of Learning Pool, where we explored the opportunities offered by e-learning approaches to exploring features of Tomorrow's Public Services with different audiences and to sharing international exemplars. Dave also pointed me to his Twitter Guide, which is an excellent introduction to anyone out there who is wondering what, how and why they should bother with abbreviated communications!
I prepared the content for the new Socitm website's <Policy and campaigns> section. Now loaded, it gives readers an insight into Socitm's priority policy areas and our work to develop and underpin these across the full range of the Society's diverse activities.
Numerous press contacts ensued from our policy briefing on the Government ICT Strategy, along with an interesting conversation with Robin Latchem (Local Government Chronicle) about our perspective on digital inclusion.
Finally a meeting with Socitm's Third Sector members rounded off a February which had begun with a stress on the growing importance of the third sector as public service delivery agents, especially to the 'hard to reach', with all that is implied for information handling and technology platforms.