England & Wales Press Releases

Councils must upend the way they think about technology

LGiU and HP today publish a new report arguing that to realise the potential of the tech revolution, councils must adopt a people-centred approach.

The report, launched by the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, at the All Party Parliamentary Local Government Group Summer Reception, claims that we need to stop thinking about technology as a solution in itself.

Rather, we need to think about how we can use technology to support and shape the neighbourhoods we want to live in.

With local authorities less than halfway through the total spending reductions they need to make, councils cannot continue simply salami-slicing public services. Rather whole-scale transformation of how we deliver local services is required.

Technology will be integral to achieving this, providing we adopt a people-centred approach. The report sets out a framework highlighting how we can do this.

(1) Efficiency – emerging technologies can help local government deliver better services to citizens more cheaply, generating services and improved outcomes

(2) Engagement – emerging technologies can help forge a new collaborative relationship between citizens and the state, enabling co-production and citizen-driven accountability

(3) Empowerment – technology can be used to enhance citizens’ capacity to achieve greater autonomy and thus help manage demand for public services

Local authorities increasingly understand the first two opportunities, but we are only starting to understand how best to take advantage of the third. Harnessing technology to build more resilient communities, however, will be critical to the future model of local government.

 

Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of LGiU, said:

“Mark Twain wrote that to a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail. Sometimes it feels as though our conversations about technology bear out this observation. We get so focused on thinking about the technology itself that we forget to ask bigger questions about what we need it for.

“Paradoxically, we will best unleash the enormous potential of new technologies if we think less about technology and more about people, places and communities. Innovation for innovation’s sake is sometimes appropriate and it is true of course that we often cannot appreciate the potential of new technology without experimentation and risk.

“But for local authorities the question must always be what sort of place they are working towards, how they are serving the interests of, and working, with their residents and how they could more effectively use new technology to help them do so.”

 

James Johns, Director of Strategy, Public Sector, HP UK Ltd, said:

“Local Authorities are going to continue to feel the pinch in financial terms for some considerable time to come.  Exploiting technology so that services better meet the needs of the council tax payer, both in terms of their efficiency and effectiveness is one of the only ways that they can square the circle of declining budgets and evolving citizen demands.”

 

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

For press enquiries or a copy of the full report, please contact Lizzie Greenhalgh, LGiU Policy Researcher, on 0207 554 2800 or by emailing her at [email protected]

 

About LGiU

LGiU (Local Government Information Unit) is a think tank and membership association, with c200 local authorities and other organisations subscribing to its services. LGiU’s

mission is to strengthen local democracy to put citizens in control of their own lives, communities and services. LGiU is a registered charity run by its members for its members.

LGiU works with NDPBs, NGOs, and private and voluntary sector partners, as well as councils: providing briefings on emerging national and regional policy, publishing its

own policy reports and recommendations, and seeking to influence decision-makers and policy teams locally, regionally and centrally.

 

About HP

HP creates new possibilities for technology to have a meaningful impact on people, businesses, governments and society. The world’s largest technology company, HP brings together a portfolio that spans printing, personal computing, software, services and IT infrastructure to solve customer problems.