Local Digital Coalition Steering Group meeting minutes | June 2016

8 Jul 2016


The Good

  • Suggestion that the big topic ideas within the Coalition could be divided between interested members based on their particular strengths and resources. There are many members of the Coalition with particular expertise in specific areas, and it would be good to leverage that.
  • Coalition would like iStand to take more of a lead in declaring 'official' standards for local government. iStand have previously stopped short of doing this as they did not consider that they had a mandate to speak for the sector, but working in partnership with the Coalition this is something we could definitely explore. The Coalition has the mandate, and iStand have the experience of implementing standards. Action plan wording to be updated to reflect this.
  • There is a positive vibe about the Coalition in the public conversations about it, and the most important thing now will be to start delivering, and to prove that this is not just another talking shop. The Coalition should be absolutely focussed on outcomes, and how the workstreams we sponsor affect our users in the real world.

The Bad

  • There is a need to be fast and agile about identifying gaps and the resources to fill them which has not really been touched on. It should be quick to spin up a new workstream and to start carrying out discovery work, or else opportunities will be missed. We do not yet have a tested model for this across organisations.
  • We do not yet have the community needed to take new standards out into the rest of the world and make them the new normal. Building this will take time and trust.
  • There will be a challenge in making the work done for workstreams and standards scalable enough to be applied nationally. E.g. the project work for the Waste Standard is good, but there will be a task to go through and pull out the bits that are reusable elsewhere.

Discussion points


  • Must not allow funding to become the elephant in the room. The current funding for councils is unlikely to improve in the near future, so the task is to be innovative in finding ways around this e.g. seeking sources of funding and resource outside the usual channels.
    • GDS has been given a large sum of money to work with Local Authorities. Could the Coalition get access to that? Particularly for joint initiatives like Verify, or the DVLA API work.
    • Does the LGA have funding that, if we approach with a good business case, the Coalition could apply for and get access to?
    • Can we find ways of getting the private sector to supplement government income, by showing them the potential markets that will be created/opened up if these standards become a reality?
    • What projects might we be missing because the managing body haven't labelled their project as 'digital'?
  • People doing work, travelling to other councils or speaking at events on behalf of the Coalition are often doing this during work hours instead of their day jobs. It can be a difficult value case for someone to present back to their employer, who is paying them to do their day to day work. By the same token, many people are giving up their free time to do Coalition work, which is not sustainable over the long term. In the absence of funding to pay for people's contributions, or full time LDC resource, this is an issue that will need to be carefully managed.
  • Can we trial some of these suggested approaches to funding by finding another two or three potential workstreams (possibly with the help of LocalGov Digital and their Pipeline list of early projects) and attempting to set up a business case and funding model for those?

Workstream Governance

  • The governance around Coalition workstreams should be flexible enough to adapt to the size and the needs of the specific project, but there should be a minimum standard to enable transparency.
    • Maybe a question posed for all new workstreams should be "Is this sustainable? Can we finish it?".
    • Do we make a rule that for a project to go ahead under the Coalition it needs commitment from at least 2 local authorities? This increases the chance of the project surviving through inevitable cuts to budget and resource.
    • Workstreams should be required to produce a document that gives a summary of the project and benefits in 'chief exec speak'? Can include appendices with more detail for those that want it, but that project 'elevator pitch' could be very powerful, and should be produced by the people closest to it.
  • Existing projects report into the 'steering group' at bi-monthly meetings, but this model is not scalable. We have Pipeline as a tool for sharing the existence of projects, but this suffers from lack of updates by project owners.
  • Grassroots in Central Government are interested in working with Local Government. There is a growing recognition that it will be necessary to have Local Government support to make the most of these platforms.
  • Will need to focus on promotion of what the Coalition is doing and get as many councils involved as possible. Could be very helpful to use Central Government to promote LDC work where our projects overlap or compliment theirs.
  • Transparency is key to the Coalition being taken seriously. It is one of the things that people call out as positive about the Local Digital Programme, and should be maintained and improved. Particularly with regard to project progress, and the timelines to which projects are being delivered.
    • 'Working out loud' is one of the hardest challenges for a digital team, as it can be very resource intensive. This is where having the DCLG team working full time on 'Coalition' activities was very helpful.
    • These projects can take time to get to a state where they are sharable, despite best efforts. Has taken two and a half years of working with Verify and Attribute Exchange to get to the point where we are ready to start piloting. If progress is not shared, these projects effectively disappear from view for anyone not involved.

Vision Document

  • The purpose of the Vision document was not to set out a vision for the Coalition, but to address the question "What does Digital Transformation look like?".
  • There is an existing document (jointly endorsed by Solace, Socitm, the LGA, and the Local CIO Council) available on the SOLACE website called "Local Digital Leadership – Joint Policy Paper " that the attendees agreed was a good example of what the Vision should look like. Suggestion that this document is used as the basis for any Vision, and tweaked as appropriate (e.g. adding content related to the LDC workstreams). http://www.solace.org.uk/knowledge/reports_guides/local-digital-leadership-joint-position-paper

Workstream updates:

Integrated Digital Record

  • Presentation from Dr Tony Shannon around open source Ripple system (http://rippleosi.org/) and openEHR (http://www.openehr.org/) showing screenshots of the Integrated Digital Record. [presentation attached]
  • Paul Davidson interested in working with Tony around standards used.
  • Confirmed that project is linked up with the data resource in the LGA.


  • Linda has been appointed as liaison for the pilots with Local Government, and is keen to use the Coalition to find volunteers.
  • First step is to push out discovery to see what councils would like to join up which systems with Verify as a priority. A survey was shared post-meeting which she has asked all interested parties to fill in (https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PXWBXPG)

Blue badge (Attribute Exchange)

  • Confirmed we are in a position to go into formal pilot.
  • Important to note that this project is not just blue badges, but about Attribute exchange which can be used much more widely. In solving blue badges, the project will also cover the infrastructure needed to implement attribute exchange across the organisation.
  • The real challenge won't be around attribute exchange, but about signing up to Verify which is still more difficult than it should be.

Waste Service Standard

  • The APIs have been built, and we are in a position to start looking for other pilot councils to put together their own business cases and start implementing the standard with their systems/suppliers.
  • Omid advised that Camden is interested in being part of this. They are currently in procurement for Waste IT systems and can start putting pressure on suppliers to adopt these standards as a part of doing business with them.
  • The LGA are interested in hosting this standard on their open standard pages.


  • John Hewson provided a written update on DVLA APIs that was shared post-meeting. The text is included below:
    • There are two elements to the DVLA API work that I can update you on.
      1. Introduction of an API facility – We’ve just received funding and started up a project to introduce API functionality for our current data enquiry services. The first service we’ll create an API for is our online vehicle checking service. This service is currently available on GOV.UK but we are finding a lot of ‘screen scraping’ of the data is happening to enable third parties to offer services to customers. We’ll provide these users an API to get the data in a better way. We’ll then roll out onto services such as Web Enabled Enquiries that some councils currently use via dial up modem still. Our parking enquiry services etc. that currently require a lease line closed user connection that costs several thousand pound per year and our bulk driver licence enquiry service ADD are in scope. All of these will be moved to the API platform removing the need for any bespoke / costly connection or cost. This project is not looking to extend that range of data service we offer but to improve the way it’s sent.
      2. DVLA / GDS discovery on enhanced services for Councils – Following on from the DCLG proposals for some new services from DVLA we’re kicking off a piece of discovery work with Government Digital Services to understand the extent of the offer we could introduce. This will look at the user need (both the council and the end customer would be the user in this instance) and what elements of that end to end service DVLA and GDS could offer to remove the need for councils to implement their own independent solutions or pay for third parties to provide them. This could range from basic data provision, provide the full end to end service or somewhere in-between. The discovery would need to look at the appetite for this from councils.

New joiners process

  • Several Councils and one Arms-Length Managed Organisation (ALMO) have emailed requesting to join the Coalition. Currently no governance in place to deal with new membership requests.
  • Do not want to create a 2-tier system where some councils are more influential because they 'got in there first'. Also want to be inclusive so all members feel as though they have a say in the direction of the Coalition. Needs to be representative of all Local Authorities.
  • Suggestion that we separate out Steering Group discussing high level issues, and Operational Group with focus on workstreams and day to day stuff. Steering group could be composed of representative bodies (where membership is drawn largely from local authorities), while working group is open to all local authorities. Will need some thought.


  • LocalGovCamp participant created system that will publicly record/display the line of business applications in use in each local council e.g. Northgate for housing,
    • SOCITIM used to maintain an applications register but it failed due to not being updated by local authorities.
    • New Zealand has one of these, which works because listing systems and publishing results is a function of mandatory external audit. Unlikely to work over here unless it is made mandatory.
  • Suggestion that Coalition meetings are not all held in London. Can be difficult for some attendees to get there. Also, afternoon start is better than morning due to train times and length of journeys.