Catherine Howe, Chief Executive of Public-i, sees a future that must be digital by default if councils are to play a central role in their communities.
We are at a pivotal moment with respect to how local government will shape itself over the next 30 years, as rapidly shrinking budgets are creating more innovative and risk-taking organisations. I believe that the outcome of this will be councils which are smaller, more agile and more networked.
The kind of leadership that this shift demands will be a key component of local government going forward, and should result in councils being central to their communities as more than simply service providers. This will only be possible if we have also shifted the relationship with the public to be more open, and our democratic processes to be more responsive to the needs of 21st century society.
I find it impossible to imagine this without a successful shift to digital by default – but this needs to be mindful both of the people needing help making that shift, and the face to face interaction that we want to preserve. Being digital by default means the creation of shared digital and civic space where communities and councils can network and collaborate – not simply pushing 19th century transactions online. The local government of 2043 will also be more confident in its ability to drive local economic growth. Rather than a postcode lottery driven by Westminster, regional differences will be turned into positive choices by local people.