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(More) Reflections on #UKGC15

Written by Gareth Young on . Posted in Our blog

This is a late post – over the past week the attendees of UK Gov Camp ’15 have been posting their thoughts and reflections. Glen did his last week (he’s more ‘on it’ than me).

This is traditional; part of the joy of a govcamp is everyone talking their time to summarise their version of the event. Glen has provided a decent summary of a govcamp but the one thing that I always forget in advance is that everyone’s experience is entirely different. As such, what follows is a summary of one person’s experience of UKGC15.

Before providing a few thoughts I should say that I find govcamps difficult. I’m an introvert at heart and have always found the group discussion element of things a difficult forum to operate in. I usually leave the event feeling a bit frustrated and yet unable to put my finger on exactly why but over time I have come to believe that this is an evolving thing. As such, I find that my experience of Govcamp evolves as I spend some time in the bar, chatting to people, and then reflect on the conversations over the next week or so.

Now onto some reflections:

1)      There is a new challenge caused by our increasing recognition of the need to design services around the customer

Ben Taylor's introduction to a session on the challenge of customer services in a more enlightened age will be the one that continues to make me think for a while. Ben posed the question, in more depth than I plan to – if we design services that are individually designed around the customer then how do we create a level of organisational structure around these interactions?

There was some really good input from other campers about what they are trying to do in their local authorities (yes, a session about service delivery was dominated by localgov folk – some stereotypes stick) and this topic will be one that sticks in the back of my mind percolating for a while yet.

2)      We’re all socialists now

I’ve been in local government for 6 years now and in general have come to the view that councils should do the jobs that they are best at and then get others, who know better, to do the things we aren’t. For councils this means, for example, getting other people to design the IT systems we need to use – as a local authority I think we’re just too small to have teams of people designing, coding and maintaining systems. And with over 400 councils this makes a lot of sense – a company working with even 10% of these councils is bound to have more resilience and capacity (not to mention skill) than any single council can.

And yet, as I toured around Govcamp loads of people were very sceptical about the idea of asking the private sector to do these things and a belief that it was far better to manage them ourselves. I think there were three reasons for this:

1.       Scale: Some of this comes from a central government perspective, where there is the scale to actually sustain this level of in house resource.

2.       Market Failure: One camper suggested that the private sector was also sceptical as selling the same thing to lots of local authorities was making them too much money.

3.       There is another way – Collaboration: The final, and possibly more compelling, reason was that many people saw an alternative in collaboration and sharing that would be better than everyone doing their own thing AND better than leaving it to the market.

There are counter points to all of this but the latter is one that sticks with me – especially due to my well-known love of shared services as a way to save money without outsourcing.

I do worry that collaboration leaves us fully at the mercy of one set of collaborators and might not allow for the flexibility we need in the future but I shall be pondering local government and capitalism a little more in the coming weeks.

3)      Continuous improvement relies on people

A session on continuous improvement was fascinating and there were lots of thoughts of how to build on initial projects (including the use of astro-physicists!); however, I think it all came back to people.

4)      Re-inventing is inevitable – and perhaps right

A session designed to find out why we keep reinventing the wheel and what we can do to prevent this instead led to a discussion of all the reasons we might want to keep reinventing things. I particularly enjoyed the parts where campers who were talking about not re-inventing things then set about explaining how things could be easily reinvented!

I imagine the answer is that not reinventing things requires a lot of compromise from those receiving those things whilst simultaneously not leading to any progress. Probably, we are all just a victim of the human need to constantly improve – and perhaps that’s not really a bad thing. It’s not as short term efficient as perhaps it might be but sometimes that’s not everything.

5)      Democracy is in a lot of trouble

Most people in the democracy session seemed pretty disengaged with politics, political parties and the political process. I don’t think twitter is going to save us here.

6)      IT moves far quicker than I do

I’m not an IT person; I’m not against computers and I try hard to keep up with what’s going on as I know how important it is – however, I just have other priorities I guess. Visiting Govcamp this year and listening to a lot of pitches that I didn’t necessarily understand made me realise things are moving even quicker than before – new efforts will need to be made on my part or else I’ll become one of those ‘back in my day’ merchants!

7)      I’m more lucky than I perhaps realise

Over the years I keep hearing stories about how many people feel frustrated by the narrow mindedness of their senior managers. I’ve rarely had experiences like that despite working with a number of these types of people in local government. This makes me think that either I’m very naïve or just very lucky. I’m feeling positive so I’ll go with the latter.

 

Govcamp is a funny beast – I love nothing more than spending a day talking about the public sector and how we can make it better and yet equally I do find the camp experience a little on the stressful side. Nonetheless, when I read back the above, and reflect on the multitude of other stuff floating around the back of my mind somewhere, it’s obviously a day well spent.

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Reflections on UKGC15

Written by Glen Ocsko on . Posted in Our blog

Photo credit @Sasha_Taylor (http://bit.ly/1BwVDP5)I’m a big fan of tradition. Watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on Christmas Eve, always booking my birthday off work, never wearing an away shirt to a home football match; tradition has a great place in my life. Okay, that last one was superstition rather than tradition, but it still counts.

It’s a tradition that after a Camp of any kind I, along with other campers, produce a few reflections on the event just gone. Some of these have been short bullet points, others more detailed treaties on life, the universe and everything; this is somewhere between the two.

Here are my own reflections on UKGovCamp15.

I didn’t miss the introductions

Long-time campers will have been slightly surprised to see that there wasn’t the usual obligatory round of audience introductions, where everyone in the room says who they are, where they are from and something they are hoping to get out of the day (or words to that effect). This can take the best part of an hour (there are a lot of people there) and can result in some classic moments of humour or insight, as well as helping put some faces to some twitter names in time to set up later conversations.

However, no matter how much I might enjoy having people look at me and be forced for those few seconds to be aware of my existence, I’ve never been convinced that they are all that cost-effective in terms of time. A sizable portion of the audience dread it (not everyone is extroverted after all), a sizable portion spend most of the time thinking about what they are going to say rather than listening to anyone else, a sizable portion go on for far too long despite being told to be brief, a sizable portion say something really boring while a sizable portion work hard on saying something funny and unique which turns out to be neither.

I quite liked the first hour or so being effectively enforced networking, and meant I managed to catch up with people I’d have not done if we’d all dived straight into sessions.

It’s getting less vague

We seem to be moving away from discussions about “should we be doing this?” and “why can’t we do this” on to “how can we best make this happen?”. It might just have been me, but I didn’t hear a single person saying that they were banned from using the internet or social media. I’m not saying that all the battles have been won of course, only that those resisting are the exceptions rather than the rule.

I left with some wonderfully specific information to follow up and find out more about, from Verify to work being done by Parliament to how to fit rubbish chutes to the outside of buildings; in some ways some of the sessions are feeling a little more like micro-hackdays than talking shops. I like this.

It’s still VERY digital

GovCamp sprang up with a digital focus, and digital has played a key role in its evolution over the years. However, Gareth pointed out to me that digital seemed to be the default solution for just about every conversation had that day, and he was right. Every issue seemed to boil down to either a need for more open data, the need for some sort of software or the need for GDS (or its local government equivalent – more on that another day…).

The way these things are set up means that the conversation is created and had by the people who attend; I’d love to find a way to get some less digital people to come along next time though.

The rule of thirds

There were a few people I spoke with who felt that the audience was changing slightly, which got me thinking about its make-up and where a happy balance might be. To me (and I’m sure there are proper stats which can prove or disprove this properly), it seemed that about a third of the audeicne were hard-core campers, with years of t-shirts in the wardrobe. Another third were those who had been to one or two events and were somewhat involved in the wider community, while a final third were new to it all and taking part for the first time.

I think this is about right. Too many of the first group and it feels like you are talking about the same things with the same people all over again. Too many of the middle third and you have to wonder where all the experience has gone. Too many of the final third and the group memory disappears, dooming them to repeat previous mistakes all over again.

The other side…

I have to admit; attending GovCamp after leaving local government was a little bit different. It has changed the way I think slightly; not in terms of who I spoke with or what I said, nor the values to which I hold dear; rather in what conversations I actually had.

Twelve months ago I would have jumped at the session on developing digital skills in leaders, but this year I went to a session on continuous change instead. This is neither the right nor wrong thing to do, but is a change which personally I found interesting to note, and makes me wonder whether this is a temporary focus on different areas as I adjust to life outside the public sector or a more permanent situation.

Overall

I thought UKGovCamp15 was a great success. In no way to put down previous events (which were all fantastic too), this one took advantage of a perfectly suitable venue, a tried and tested formula (with a few tweaks) and a macro conversation around digital which is maturing significantly.

 

It will be interesting to see if and how these follow through into other camp events (I’m particularly looking forward to LocalGovCamp); if they are all of a similar level then I won’t have a massive task convincing my office to offer a little more sponsorship in the future.

(Photo credit @Sasha_Taylor - https://www.flickr.com/photos/sashataylor/sets/72157650059186610/page4/)

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#UKGC15

Written by Glen Ocsko on . Posted in Our blog

If you’ve not heard already, UKGovCamp15 is nearly upon us; it’s taking place at Microsoft HQ in Victoria on Saturday 24 January, bringing together a huge number of people who passionately care about improving the work of local and central government.

 

Govcamps, whether local or otherwise, are possibly the place I feel most at home. Last year I tweeted out that I looked around and felt that “these are my people”; not that I’ve worked with hardly any of them, but that they all are people that I aspire to work with in the future, and who inspire me to want to be better than I am. I reckon I could pick five random people and probably be able to start a semi-successful business with them of some kind; everyone brings something brilliant to the collective table.

This year is a little different for me. For the first time, I will be attending not as a member of local government but as a member of the private sector (albeit one who works nigh-on exclusively with local government). I’m interested to see if this makes any difference at all as to what I get out of the day, but it’s not changed my excitement levels at all.

I’m also in the position of having work colleagues joining me for the first time, as TSO are one of the sponsors for UKGovCamp this year (we're the one called 'Williams Lea Public Sector (TSO)' - I'll explain it on the day if you're interested!). It was one of the first conversations I had when we were looking at which events I felt were key throughout the year; this was right up there at the top of the list, and my new employers very kindly agreed to chip in a not insubstantial amount to support it.

In the process of having these discussions with colleagues I tried to go through what an unconference is and why these events are so fantastic; it was a lot harder than I thought it would be.

You see, on paper it is a pretty simple affair; a group of people turn up, host a number of sessions and have some discussions and then go home. There is no key note address, there are no product launches or special deals, there are no established themes in advance and no way of knowing just how much you might get out of it.

Only, it’s brilliant.

Every time I’ve attended one of these events over the last few years I’ve left enthused and invigorated for the year ahead. I've left full of ideas and inspiration, and with a clutch of new contacts to follow up on and talk with. I've left with a better understanding of the wider issues facing the sector and some of the innovative ways they are being addressed. I've even left knowing a little more about what some of the sponsors offer.

There are many blogs out there which talk about how unconferences run and why they are brilliant, so I won’t simply repeat things here. Instead, I’ll trust that the intangible outcomes which I've gone away with every time for years happen again and that I will leave excited about the year ahead.

It’s strange having been to a number of these and even been a campmaker before, yet still feeling as if I’m not worthy of acceptance amongst the govcamp herd. Other attendees are doing truly amazing things; addressing big, key issues facing the public sector, coming up with practical solutions, developing plans which then lead to real change and improvement. I turn up and talk, share some ideas and simply absorb; it feels like an unfair trade at times.

However, that’s not going to stop me from jumping in with both feet and getting involved again. This year I plan to meet a lot more people, either during the day or afterwards at beercamp, so please do say hi. I’m genuinely interested to talk about almost anything, from my current work helping redevelop council websites, to open data to blogging, to engagement, to getting kids coding, to supporting national work-based social networks, to the public perception of the sector, to how public and private sector can more effectively work together to, well, you get the idea.

That for me is the best thing about these events; the new relationships which spring up online and off. I deliberately call them relationships rather than contacts as that’s what they are; relationships which enable me to be challenged and to challenge in return, to survive over the years and the events and to spark thoughts and plans which turn into reality.

 

If I start even one new relationship after UKGovCamp15 it’ll all be worthwhile. I hope to start many more than that.

@glenocsko

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A whole load of cuts

Written by Gareth Young on . Posted in Our blog

As I mentioned last week I am a big fan of the LGIU briefings. One of the elements they provide is a useful summary of local stories regarding local government cuts in specific areas. A few months ago I started wondering whether the fact that these stories were in the briefing every day was inoculating me to their impact.

And so, in a moment of randomness, I decided to start saving any stories that related to cuts to local authority budgets. I only did it for a couple of months (October to December) but the below stories are from the key budget period as proposals tend to be shared with the public in the autumn time.

I recognise that these are also a limited selection of pieces from a smallish amount of councils and also are just one year’s announcements from a half decade of austerity but I hope that by presenting them in this way they demonstrate a pattern of cuts and some attached detail that perhaps hasn’t been presented in this way so far.

I’ve also included a couple of stories presenting the other side of the story – I guess the bureaucrat in me can’t stand to only present one side of the argument!

I’m not sure if this is interesting or helpful but I find seeing the reality of the cuts around the country a useful reminder of the reality of the savings.

11/12

Birmingham to cut jobs

More than 6,000 jobs are to be cut at Birmingham City Council in the next three years, including over half of the posts at its new £189m library. By 2018 it expects its workforce to be down to 7,000 compared with 20,000 in 2010. Sir Albert Bore, council leader, said the authority had already been cut to the bone and was "now scraping away" at the bones themselves.

The Times, Page: 4   The Birmingham Post, Page: 3   The Guardian, Page: 3

3/12 

Jobs at risk at Isle of Wight Council

According to the BBC, more than 150 jobs could be lost at Isle of Wight Council which is looking to reduce its net spending by £13.5m in the next financial year. The council said it would consider job sharing, reduced hours, flexible retirement, voluntary retirement and voluntary redundancy "to keep compulsory redundancies to a minimum".

BBC News

26/11 

Cornwall approves savings plan

Cornwall Council has approved a four-year budget strategy aimed at cutting spending by nearly £200m. The full 123-seat council approved the strategy, designed to save £196m between 2015-2019, on Tuesday. The cabinet previously said the council had to make cuts as government spending squeezes were continuing and demand for services was growing.

BBC News

21/11 

Cardiff Council plans consultation

Cardiff Council is planning to consult with the public on proposals to save more than £48m. The seven week consultation begins today and lasts until January 12. The council is considering axing jobs, cutting leisure and park services, and ending funding for the city’s New Year celebration.

BBC News

17/11

Cardiff council warned of “devastating” cuts

Unison has warned Cardiff council that the £32m in cuts it has planned will have “devastating consequences”, and has refused to rule out industrial action. Regional organiser Steve Belcher said: "It's never something we would wish for but ultimately sometimes it's something we have to look at", but stressed that the union has not yet given up on a deal. Cardiff is trying to plug a £48m budget shortfall; it is aiming to make £5m savings through over 20 potential redundancies, along with £7.9m trimmed from the health and social care budget.

11/11

Councils build up reserves of £2.3bn

According to analysis conducted by the FT, England’s councils have built up extra reserves of £2.3bn in the last financial year despite the coalition's austerity programme. The paper says local authorities have saved money partly through the loss of half a million staff since 2010 - about a sixth of the total - in contrast to minimal net job losses in central government. Before the last financial year England's 444 local authorities predicted they would have to eat into their reserves by £1.2bn. Instead they increased their total reserves by £2.3bn to £23.7bn in the 12 months to last April, according to data from the DCLG. Communities secretary Eric Pickles said: “Local authorities should of course maintain a healthy cushion when balancing the books, but such substantial reserves are completely unnecessary. They should be tapped into to protect frontline services." A separate article in the same paper details the cuts Harrow council has made since 2010-11. Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that the Treasury has asked senior officials at Whitehall to draw up details of how an extra £25-£30bn in public spending cuts could be imposed a year after the next general election.

5/11 

Lancashire must make extra savings of £15m

Lancashire County Council has said it must make an extra £15m of savings because of increased costs and demand on services.

BBC News

28/10

Services at risk

Libraries, parks and leisure centres could come under threat as councils are forced to consider unprecedented cuts to prevent the elderly care system collapsing, according to a study by the Local Government Association. An analysis of council budgets concludes that the amount of cash available for services other than adult social care and bin collection will fall by almost half by the end of this decade, as local authorities attempt to keep up with the needs of an ageing population. The LGA study predicts a £4.3bn black hole in social care budgets. The report estimates that the projected shortfall is the equivalent of almost a third of the current budget for adult social care in England. It predicts that the effects could be felt as early as next year when basic services may have to be "scaled back significantly" as councils try to balance the books while implementing reforms of the care system. The study calculates that local authorities have seen their overall funding effectively reduced by 40% since the beginning of the austerity measures in 2010.

25/10

Dorset council merge could save £6m

If West Dorset DC, North Dorset DC, Weymouth BC and Portland BC were to merge – as proposed – and share one executive and senior management team, up to £6m could be saved, according to the BBC.

BBC News 

24/10

Jobs and services at risk

The BBC reports that Cumbria County Council is considering cutting 1,800 jobs over the next three years as it looks to make savings of £83m. Meanwhile, Coventry City Council has warned of “unprecedented” cuts to services as it attempts to tackle a predicted £65m budget shortfall by 2018. The council expects to publish detailed plans of how jobs and services will be affected, later this year. Finally, Birmingham City Council has said that pest control and school crossing services may be cut as it looks to make £150m of savings in the next financial year.

23/10

Council jobs at risk

The BBC reveals that a number of councils are considering making job cuts to save money. Dudley Council has warned it could cut 300 jobs as it looks to save £57m over the next three years; Calderdale Council will cut up to 200 jobs by 2016 in a bid to save £40m; and more than 200 jobs could be lost at Middlesbrough Council next year as it attempts to axe £14m from its budget.

BBC News   BBC News    BBC News

21/10

Gwynedd moves to three-weekly bin collection

The Mail reports that households in Gwynedd yesterday became the first in Wales to have some of their bins emptied on a three-weekly basis. Gwynedd Council approved the plan in April and claimed that the move would save it £350,000 a year as well as reducing landfill waste and encouraging recycling. Only general household rubbish is being switched to three-weekly collection. Food waste and recyclable products will still be collected weekly.

Daily Mail, Page: 27

20/10

Residents consulted on spending plans

Residents arebeing asked to take part in an online survey on priorities as East Riding Council plans further cost-cutting to save £54m in the next four years. Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that Durham County Council has devised a game for residents to play at public consultations. Designed to mimic the Monopoly board, the game is about cutting rather than spending money, and encourages players to find £100m-worth of savings to council services out of the budget of £400m.

16/10

Senior posts to be cut

The BBC reports that Lancashire County Council plans to cut more than 150 senior jobs in a bid to save money. The 157 posts, up to executive director level, will save the council £11.4m each year as part of its staff restructuring programme. The council says it has to save £300m over the next four years because of central government budget cuts.

 

BBC News

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2015 will be the year of…

Written by Glen Ocsko on . Posted in Our blog

Every year at this time writers ease themselves back into the blogging routine by putting on their Mystic Meg cloaks and looking forward to the coming year in an effort to predict the big things that might or might not happen. Most then hope that these are quietly forgotten about so that their rash forecasts and unrealised ideas aren’t brought up in twelve months’ time.

It is therefore with some trepidation that I present my own 12 predictions for 2015 with regards to how technology might affect local government. Please don’t hold it against me in 2016…

The Internet of Things

This term has sprung up over recent years, and has been used to describe everything from fridges which top themselves up to bins which report when they are full. The basic concept is to turn otherwise ‘dumb’ devices into smart ones by introducing sensors which talk to a central system and direct actions based on simple rules; were this to be rolled out at scale the possibilities are enormous.

However, this involves a significant amount of investment up front in order to realise these benefits, investment which is not likely in these times of austerity. Councils might love to have a network of street lights which automatically order repairs without the need for people to report them, but the reality is that they can’t yet afford them. Until someone comes up with an argument to demonstrate that a connected network of dumb devices will save significantly more than the cost to smarten them up, our neighbourhoods will remain stupid for now.

Wearable tech will still be searching for a niche

Everyone loves the idea of one piece of wearable tech or another, be it the sensors in your watch which check your health or simply the belt you wear which knows when it should loosen itself. Trouble is, at the more sophisticated end of the scale (which is getting all of the press) it feels very much like a technological development searching for a market.

Wearable tech holds the potential to improve the health and fitness of its wearers significantly and may therefore lead to real savings for not just local government but also the wider public service. Doctors would be able to know in real time whether the medication they prescribed was working, or call people in for a check-up based on their data. The trouble is, the only people buying these and using them in the way intended are those who already have a more than passing interest in health and fitness, the last people who will lead to increased financial savings. 2015 will see software developers stretching some of the things that these wearable devices can do but will not see them taken up by the mainstream despite the benefits they could lead to.

Open data will continue to quietly become the norm

2014 saw the launch of a range of open formats for the information published on gov.uk, something which was more important than many people give it credit for. Open data seems to be one of those things which everyone sees as good but few see as urgent in terms of priorities; as long as it’s on the internet in some format or other it’s fine. As more and more departments are effectively coerced into releasing their information using open formats, more and more clever people will be able to take this information and do more and more interesting and useful things with it.

Gov.uk Verify will take off

In case you missed it, GDS did another brilliant thing towards the end of 2014 when they launched Verify, the new way in which they are able to verify who you are online (do you see what they did there with the name? I told you they were clever…). It doesn’t try to get you to create yet another account and profile – instead it allows you to add a few bits of information and then it quizzes other verified and trusted sources to check that what you have said matches up. It’s so solid that it’s even allowing users to renew their passports online, something unthinkable just a few years ago.

Local government has always struggled with the field of verifying identities online; some are doing it well through the creation of master accounts with the council, though few of these are able (yet) to allow all of the myriad legacy systems to talk directly to these accounts. For those which are facing real problems, particularly around some more sensitive information, Verify may well be the way to go, and 2015 could see the first few councils taking this route.

Council websites will start to look better

For some reason, a huge number of council websites look like they are some form of strange homage to web design of the 90s; lots (and lots) of text, a couple of square pictures in frames, boxes containing everything and a colour palate that makes a nursery class wish for a little more subtlety.

Modern users expect every site they use to be comparable in terms of quality of look and feel, regardless of the scale or sector of the organisation behind it. 2015 will start to see more local authorities realising that a website needn’t be bland and boring to look at; form and function can in fact go hand in hand. Hopefully we’ll start to move away from these awful layouts and on to something which looks much, much better and more welcoming on screen. And that’s all screens, not just those on a desktop.

Attack of the Drones

There have been countless stories over the past year of how drones are going to change everything. I don’t think they are going to personally, at least not in the short term. I’ve seen too many science fiction dreams dashed on the rocks of reality to get my hopes up.

I do however see a number of uses for them in local government circles, particularly around enforcement. A drone with a camera, operated by a trained council officer, could be invaluable in enforcement inspections when access to a site is restricted. Want to know whether a waste company is complying with storage requirements but can’t see over their fence? Send in the drones! Want to get some birds eye views of a construction site? Drones are the answer! This year will see at least one council break out their remote controls and take to the skies.

Digital High Streets will become a thing

I’ve written in the past about how councils might be able to help local businesses get more digital and online, and now that business rates can be retained this may well give councils the extra incentive they need to take this more seriously. With a huge and ever increasing amount spent by consumers online it’s vital that as many local SMEs as possible get in the game.

2015 will see a couple of big schemes start looking at this and actually making it happen. And if they don’t, then they should; consider the gauntlet thrown down.

Hack attack

Criminals go where the money is, and this is no different online. In the past, cyber criminals have attacked institutions which hold financial information about people with the aim of accessing credit card information and spending big. In this day and age though there is something which is becoming increasingly valuable: data.

Councils may not hold much in the way of financial information but they hold an awful lot of data about individuals. In the past this would only be lost if it was left on a train on a memory stick; these days all that’s needed is a web connection. As more and more systems link up, hackers will increasingly become more interested in the data held within council systems and how they might exploit it: perhaps 2015 will see the first major hack of a council database?

Video meetings will become more common

Everyone is familiar with Skype, one of the underrated wonders of the digital world, and how it can make communication so much easier. Why then do we insist on limiting communication within councils to the spoken or written word?

Slowly but surely, council hardware and infrastructure is improving and opening up to allow video conferencing facilities to be viable; I've used it myself to have meetings with a council already. Councils will begin to encourage the use of video conferencing internally as a way of both improving communication as well as saving money and time on people travelling between meetings in different buildings.

Caring about sharing

Social sharing sites such as Airbnb – the site helping people find accommodation around the world – have very quickly become big, big business. To date these have met with mixed reactions from authorities; some have studiously ignored it, while others (most notably New York) have aggressively challenged its practices and the rules it may potentially be breaking.

As these sites continue to grow we will begin to see them rub up against some of the rules inherent in local government in the UK, around licensing, permitting and such like. I’ve no idea on which side the coin will land, but I expect some initial challenges to be made around how they operate.

The ongoing rise of mobile

The work I’ve been doing recently looking at council websites shows a trend we will all be familiar with – mobile is growing. Almost a third of some council sites are already accessed from mobiles, a figure which has been rising for several years and which shows no sign of slowing down. There are more smartphones in the UK than people, and increasingly their users are expecting to be able to access any and all council services and information online.

While I think 50% might be a bit too rapid a change, I can certainly see a number of local authorities pushing the 40% mark when it comes to accessing sites via mobiles.

3D or not 3D

At every gathering of innovative minds and unconference over the last few years, at least one room has been used to discuss 3D printers and the amazing potential they hold. Technology in this field has come a long, long way since the early days, with examples of surgeons printing fake versions of hearts to study before operations and tools being e-mailed to the International Space Station and printed off rather than sent up by rocket.

Local government is yet to find a practical use for this technology. However, as costs continue to fall and quality continues to rise, 2015 may see the first signs of a change in this area. Perhaps it will be street light repair vans being able to print parts on demand rather than going back to base to collect them, or on demand production of wheelie bins saving bulk purchasing and storage costs; there’s bound to be a handful of practical, viable uses for this amazing kit. Isn’t there?!

……

So that’s my twelve predictions for 2015. Some are big, some are small, but at least one of these will come true over the year, and if more than one does then I’m changing my official job title to Nostradamus.

 

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