Local authorities should use an “app store” to help reduce the costs of procuring IT systems, says a think tank.
A report from Policy Exchange, Small Pieces Loosely Joined, examines how smarter and more collaborative use of technology and data could save councils up to £10 billion by 2020.
The report suggests that rather than independently designing or commissioning expensive bespoke apps and online services, an ‘app store’ should be created where individuals, businesses or other organisations can bid to provide them.
It says the services created could then be used by dozens of local authorities creating economies of scale that bring down prices for all.
Its recommendations include the creation of a Local Government Data Marketplace (LGDM), which would function as a competitive online marketplace for councils and online service providers.
The report says: “The LGDM would enable local authorities to declare the transactions, apps or data they need and let the market innovate to provide them. By creating a marketplace, local authorities would be able to source their front-end digital services at a competitive price. If several councils needed the same service via the LGDM, companies would be able to offer much cheaper prices for all, as instead of having to deal with hundreds of different organisations (and different interfaces) they could create one solution that worked for all of them.
“As prices became cheaper for standard solutions, this would in turn encourage more local authorities to converge on common platforms, ways of working and capabilities, driving down costs still further.”
Data sharing would also help reduce costs for councils by showing where it might be beneficial for local authorities to merge services, the report concludes.
“For example, if one council spends £5 million each year on combating a particular issue, such as investigating food safety violations, fly-tipping or pest control, it may be more cost-effective to hire the services of a neighbouring council that has a far greater incidence of that same issue,” the report says.
Each year councils lose more than £1.3 billion through council tax fraud, benefit fraud and housing tenancy fraud, Policy Exchange says. But collecting and analysing data from different sources would make it possible to predict where and when fraud is most likely.
Local government minister Kris Hopkins said: “Local government accounts for a quarter of all public sector spending and should therefore play its part in reducing the inherited deficit. This could include doing more joint working, getting more for less through smart procurement, tackling local fraud and council tax arrears, or utilising their reserves and surplus property.”