Applying the Government Service Standard in London boroughs

28 June 2019

On 20 June 2019, City Hall hosted the latest LocalGov Digital London Peer Group meeting. Representatives across a range of operational and strategic roles covering 12 London boroughs came together to discuss the new Government Service Standard and how it can be adopted and applied in London.
The aim of the session was to:

  • increase awareness of the new standard
  • encourage adoption of the standard and services assessments
  • understand where the pain points are
  • start to solve pain points

Originally the Government Digital Service Standard was designed to provide a quality assurance framework and a governance model for central government IT projects. The standard didn't quite work for local government so the team at LocalGov Digital produced a more appropriate version - the Local Government Digital Service Standard.
However, having two standards was a short term solution and the aim was to have only one - and that's what we have now. A large collaborative effort between local government, MHCLG and GDS has produced the new Government Service Standard.
Assessing services against the standard is one of the commitments made by those who have signed the Local Digital Declaration so it's important to get to grips with it sooner rather than later.

What works well and what doesn't

The group ran an exercise to learn what parts of the standard were best understood and most achievable and those that were harder or more complex. Some simple dot voting produced the following results:

Government Service Standard

Ranking the above results in order looked like this:

  1. Understand users and their needs
  2. Define what success looks like and publish performance data
  3. Make the service simple to use
  4. Use agile ways of working
  5. Create a secure service which protects users’ privacy
  6. Operate a reliable service
  7. Make new source code open
  8. Have a multidisciplinary team
  9. Use and contribute to common standards, components and patterns
  10. Provide a joined up experience across all channels
  11. Solve the whole problem for users
  12. Make sure everyone can use the service
  13. Iterate and improve frequently
  14. Choose the right tools and technology

What this shows is that, for this group, there is confidence in their ability to understand their users and their problems and how well they are meeting those needs. It then shows that breaking down silos to take an organisation-wide approach is, unsurprisingly, very hard and that London Boroughs are still restricted by legacy systems and internal procurement approaches.
Other issues that came up included a need for better skills in-house. Lots of suggestions were made such as taking advantage of the GDS academy, looking within your own organisation for untapped skills and looking to neighbouring boroughs to swap skills and loan each other people.
Accessibility is another topical issue given the imminent September deadline for implementing the new EU accessibility regulations. Gaining buy-in can be an issue which can often be overcome by showing, not telling. Anyone who's ever shown a video of a screen reader being used to someone for the first time will remember the impact it makes.


Whilst there's still a way to go in many areas, we should recognise the significant progress that local government has made in a relatively short time. It wasn't so long ago that digital teams were spending much of their time just making the case for mobile responsive websites, and now we've got senior leaders asking, "How can I convince the organisation to think and work across internal boundaries?"

What now?

It would be great if more London boroughs were able to start assessing their services against the new service standard. Just simply having the conversation with a project team is a good start, and booking in a service assessment is even better. The LocalGov Digital community is here to help and there are lots of willing volunteers to help assess services.
If you're already signed up then simply go to and ask for assistance, otherwise feel free to sign up and join the collaboration community.

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