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Connecting a region against a backdrop of devolution

Jonathan Bradshaw, director of technology at Agilisys provides insight into the topics discussed.

Agilisys, in conjunction with LGC, recently brought together a panel of senior county council officers in a roundtable debate to discuss the opportunities and challenges of working with districts and other public and private sector organisations.

With the possibility of devolution at the doorstep of many counties across England, there has never been a better time for counties and districts to work more closely for the benefit of their citizens.

Our roundtable discussion highlighted the leadership roles that counties can take to drive better outcomes for citizens and regions. Four major themes came out as essential foundations for enabling successful collaboration across public sector organisations: creating the right environment; enabling the sharing of data; putting the citizen in control; and driving change through digital transformation.

Creating the right environment comes down to establishing the structures where people can come together from different organisations to collaborate effectively. Ensuring these have governance, clear objectives and senior leader sponsorship from each authority is essential. As demonstrated in counties where Agilisys is working, a strategic partner can also be a catalyst for driving change by acting as a ‘neutral’ third party able to facilitate authorities working together.

Sharing and exploiting data to allow early interventions and better use of resources is a common goal across the public sector today. Just as major city areas have their own data sharing initiatives, such as GM-Connect in Manchester, many counties are also progressing their own projects. It is clear that technology is not the biggest challenge; among other things, significant effort is required to secure data sharing agreements, including in some cases right down to individual field level. A focus on building a data driven culture and using data to shape, optimise and measure the effectiveness of services is good for government at all levels.

Putting the citizen in control is the key to addressing many privacy controls around sharing data. Informed consent by individuals on things that affect them is in the fabric of our society. Government being transparent about the data it holds on citizens and giving them the choice about how it is used needs to be configured into the digital systems we are building today. And it is digital transformation that represents a fantastic opportunity for public sector organisations to work together to deliver even better results.

Within the two-tier local authority environment, given that almost every authority is thinking about or progressing a digital agenda at this moment,  collaboration, or simply coordination, between authorities is the least the public can expect. After all, people don’t care about organisations, they care about their places and the services available to them in those places.

This article was originally published in LGC as part of roundtable article discussing the efforts being made by local government to connect the two tiers.