Public Services > Central Government

Chi Onwurah outlines Digital Britain agenda to PSNGB members

Published 10 November 2014

Shadow Cabinet Office minister underlines benefits of PSN to reduce costs, improve services and empower citizens, says PSNGB's chairman Phil Gibson


Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central and the Labour Party's shadow Cabinet Minister for digital government, spoke at the recent PSNGB's members' meeting.

Chi outlined Labour's vision of Digital Britain and provided an update on Digital Britain 2015, Labour's Digital Government review. She underlined the importance of the Public Services Network, noting PSN's potential to reduce costs, improve and deliver real benefits to public services but highlighted the need for less 'top-down' control and imposition from Whitehall and more involvement from local authorities.

In her first speech to PSNGB's growing membership of PSN-accredited suppliers, Chi outlined the Labour Party's wishes to see better-integrated services, which reflect need and capabilities of citizens and communities. She posed the question: 'how can we get better services, which are more individual, local and that cost less?'

She called for more collaboration and 're-use' - enabling local authorities, people, communities and business to benefit from the scale of the whole public sector. She reiterated that PSN was created by Labour to help deliver just this purpose.

We welcome the renewed focus on improving public services as well as reducing costs. This was the original motivation for, and objective of, PSN. PSN has been successful in reducing network costs, but even a 50% saving on all networks would only be a 6% drop in Government ICT expenditure and equates to just 0.2% of total managed public expenditure on services.

Exploiting PSN to improve services through better collaboration and joint working could have a much greater impact on the £674bn cost of public service delivery by being able to, for example:

  • Work flexibly in any public building, on the move or from home
  • Respond more effectively to floods, incidents or emergencies
  • Facilitate the delivery of integrated health and social care
  • Reduce costs of supporting services, securely share resources / information wherever possible
  • Focus resource on safeguarding and improving frontline services across public sector."

Discussing Digital Britain 2015, Labour's Digital Government review, for which the first consultation generated 80 formal submissions and over 2000 survey responses, Chi highlighted how the review would seek out ways to put citizens in control of increasingly digital public services including data and information usage, particularly in the challenging areas around value creation, consent, trust and privacy. The review explores and expands on Ed Miliband's view that 'Information on individuals should be owned by and, accessible to, the individual not horded by the state. Labour will be a government of people powered services.'

The review has nine wide-ranging propositions from Access and Skills, Information Rights and Supporting Communities to Putting Citizen Needs First and Continuous Innovation. Three key themes emerging from the review, which will publish this autumn in the next six-weeks or so, include:

  • Digital inclusion - 10m people are currently without access or ability (or desire) to use the Internet. Millions more are not confident using it. It is not acceptable that 20% of the population is excluded and Labour will be focusing on this issue.
  • Data - Labour wants to see a safe, secure, accountable, legitimate and ethical approach to data sharing
  • IT procurement - Labour wants to see national and local government become an intelligent customer in procurement process, further opening up public ICT procurement to suppliers of all sizes.

We strongly support this open and equitable approach to IT procurement that allows all providers of any size to address opportunities in the public sector and encourages innovation. We think that the recent interaction with PSNGB leading up to the Network Services framework could help open the market to more SMBs, but would welcome any move which encourages SMB inclusion.

Chi has called for feedback and views on how PSN is contributing to improved digital transformation in local government. We would also welcome views from our members and will share with Chi accordingly.

Phil Gibson is chairman of PSNGB, the trade association for organisations or individuals providing PSN services to the public sector

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