Digital Service Standard for Local Government

25 July 2016

Our Senior Manager for Digital Transformation, Natalie Taylor, explains how and why City Hall is working with Local Gov Digital to help implement a Local Government Digital Service Standard across London councils.


Digital Service Design in central government

I was fortunate enough to be working at the Government Digital Service (GDS) whilst the Digital by Default Service Standard (DbDSS) was being developed. I spent several months running the digital spend approvals team and advising colleagues across government on how their work would need to be delivered in order to be approved. To do this I had to be very well versed in the DbDSS, not to mention 100% signed up to the principles behind it.

I sat in on mock-assessments as GDS ramped up for their full implementation and ran them for the exemplar services I was working on, to practise for the actual assessments we would have to pass later on.

This was a rocky time for digital in central Government. Huge change was afoot and change is never easy, but this was the beginning of a revolution and has led to the mass transformation of the way in which Government transacts with citizens. I’m sure you are already familiar with what an incredible difference GOV.UK and GDS has made to the user experience of many, many services which Government provides.

As part of this work I was responsible for delivering the new Registered Traveller exemplar, working with Home Office colleagues.  I found that using the DbDSS gave us a really useful framework to work within, it helped us to focus on what was important and to ensure that everything we did was according to digital best practice. I coached the team in preparation for the DbDSS assessments and am pleased to say we passed with flying colours.


Digital Service Design in local government

Since joining City Hall in September 2014, I was primarily focused on the delivery of the new platform. Bringing my experience of the DbDSS I helped to introduce similar ways of working here, which I have blogged about previously. Making these changes has brought vast improvements to the way we deliver digital products, but I did notice that the DbDSS wasn’t quite right in the Local Government context. Most of the principles remain the same, but some thinking needed to be done on how the standard could be adapted to suit local councils.

Then earlier this year I came across a GDS blog post about how Local Gov Digital, a peer group for local government digital types, was working with GDS to do exactly that. I immediately got in touch with their Vice Chair, Phil Rumens, to find out how I could help and discuss how this might work for London’s government.


A London peer group

I discovered that Local Gov Digital planned to start building regional peer groups to help implement the standard and I quickly volunteered to facilitate London’s group. Last week, we held the first meet-up for the London peer group, hosted by Camden and run jointly between us. It was an extremely productive afternoon, with representatives from ten London boroughs discussing how best the standard could be implemented across London councils. You can read about it in more detail and find out how to get involved.

I am very enthusiastic about the positive impact this work could have for local government across the country and in particular for Londoners. The need to spend money wisely, coupled with people’s expectations of digital customer service, mean that local government can’t afford to ignore the digital by default agenda.

Although there are pockets of great work already happening, without common, open standards that we are all signed up to, we won’t be able to ensure that Londoners get the consistency, good quality and value for money that they deserve, no matter which borough they live in. This peer group is a fantastic opportunity for us to work together across London to support London councils in further collaboration and knowledge sharing, to share experience, skills and research so that resources can be used most effectively.

Working with London councils to find out how we can help them adopt the standard is the first step on the journey to achieving this and I am really looking forward to helping London on this digital journey.  

As well as the London peer group, we will also be hosting a national summit this autumn here at City Hall, London. This event is open to anyone representing or working in the public sector. I hope to see you there.

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