Socitm: Ministers need to trust councils to deliver Budget efficiencies

The government should trust local councils to make their own decisions on IT-led efficiencies.

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The government should trust local councils to make their own decisions on IT-led efficiencies.

That is the verdict of Socitm, the local government IT managers’ association, to yesterday’s Budget, which urged authorities to freeze council tax levels and imposed a two-year public sector pay freeze, for those earning above £21,000.

Jos Creese, Socitm president, said that if the Budget is to be seen as successful, ministers need to believe in local councils’ ability to make the right decisions for themselves.

There “needs to be a new era of trust between local and central government in how front line services are protected, whilst dramatically falling unit costs are delivered”, he said. “This in turn will rely heavily on technology to transform what we do and how we do it."

Creese said local councils needed to be left with the “freedom” to decide how change is managed, instead of recent “national policies and programmes” that “prescribed how the new measures need to be implemented, applying layers of regulation, audit and performance management to ensure this happens”.

He also criticised the Chancellor for not going “far enough” in recognising the contribution of IT to improving efficiencies, including the “multiplier effect” of IT investment, automation, self-service and new models of public and private collaboration using IT.

The public sector network, cloud computing, shared services and other infrastructure developments will “need to be exploited”, he said, warning these posed a “significant challenge” to local authorities and their suppliers.

In response to the Budget, and to emphasise the growing role of shared services, the NHS today said that local trusts will share £1 million in savings from a Shared Business Services initiative currently in place.

The BCS-Chartered Institute for IT agreed that technology and related staff would be vital to delivering the efficiencies, and urged public sector IT departments to demonstrate they have a “strategic understanding” of their organisations’ goals.

"On a personal level, it is more vital than ever that IT professionals keep their skills and qualifications up-to-date, and also that they have a good network of contacts,” said Michiel van der Voort, director of international and professional development.

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