This week we released our latest report Small Pieces Loosely Joined: How smarter use of technology and data can deliver real reform of local government. The paper highlights how billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being wasted due to the inability of local councils to share and use technology and data in the most cost effective way. In this context, the report sets out three ways that local authorities could not only save billions of pounds, but also provide better, more coordinated public services:
- Using data to predict and prevent fraud. Each year councils lose in excess of £1.3 billion through Council Tax fraud, benefit fraud and housing tenancy fraud (such as illegal subletting). By collecting and analysing data from numerous different sources, it is possible to predict where future violations are most likely to occur and direct investigative teams to respond to them first.
- Sharing data between neighbouring councils. This would reveal where it might be beneficial for two or more neighbouring LAs to merge digital services. For example, if one council spends £5m each year on combating a particular issue, such as reporting and measuring incidences of fly-tipping, it may be cost-effective to hire the services of a neighbouring council that has a far greater incidence of that same issue.
- Phasing out costly bespoke IT systems. Rather than each LA independently designing or commissioning its own apps and online services (such as paying for council tax or reporting noisy neighbours), an ‘app store’ should be created where individuals, businesses or other organisations can bid to provide them. The services created could then be used by many local authorities, creating economies of scale that bring down prices for all.
The report has been welcomed by the DCLG and local and central government digital experts. Media coverage included: The Daily Telegraph, Press Association and Public Finance