Cost-saving "place-based" public services are being hindered by public bodies' poor understanding and management of information, according to council IT managers' organisation Socitm.
The potential for saving public funds through concepts such as place-based budgeting, in which multiple spending by different agencies on the same item is prevented, could be frustrated without better understanding of the value of information and how it should be managed, according to a Socitm report.
The report shows that problems with information exchange between public agencies centre on two main issues - the willingness to share information and the format of the data.
The paper, called 'Too many cooks', is based on a study of pilot projects run under the previous government’s Operational Efficiency Programme. The pilots were designed to identify economies and efficiency improvements that might be achieved by taking a coordinated, collaborative approach to service delivery across all public sector agencies in a locality.
The underlying premise was that un-coordinated spending by multiple agencies on vulnerable children and adults, drug and alcohol abuse programmes, offender management and similar services can lead to duplication, waste and poor outcomes for citizens.
Socitm studied projects at authorities including Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry, Solihull & Warwickshire, Croydon, Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole, Durham, Gateshead, South Tyneside & Sunderland, Kent, Leicester & Leicestershire, Lewisham, Luton & Central Bedfordshire, Manchester City and Warrington, and Worcestershire.
Socitm said almost every project raised "serious issues about information availability, quality, sharing and management".
Each pilot started with an attempt to develop a comprehensive view of who was doing what, how much was being spent, and what the outcomes were in relation to the specific topic under consideration. "Assembling this picture proved to be a challenge in every area that ran a pilot", said Socitm.
"If we are to protect the frontline despite the cuts, local, joined up, evidence-based approaches are essential", said report author Chris Head.
Socitm recently called on IT leaders in public sector organisations to get ready for the new Public Sector Network, which is designed to ease operations at local authorities and other organisations.