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March 9, 2020

Local Government Association: Fix “Fragmented” IT Licensing to Help Plug Council Funding Black Hole

"Licensing frameworks have evolved in a piecemeal manner over many years"

By CBR Staff Writer

The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that local authorities are on track to face a funding chasm in England of a stark £6.5 billion by 2025.

Now, in a budget proposal submitted ahead of the Chancellor’s budget on Wednesday, it has called on the government to support techno investment and make regulatory changes that can “help streamline complex services such as licensing.”

The announcement comes as councils have lost £15 billion in central government funding over the past decade of “austerity”.

The LGA said: “Licensing frameworks have evolved in a piecemeal manner over many years, and the historic, fragmented and complex nature of licensing imposes unnecessary burdens on councils and businesses.”

See also: After Cloud “Bill Shock”, Home Office Turns to Spot Instances

It added: “The Budget provides an opportunity to introduce a single licensing framework by investing in council IT systems.

“This will enable councils to make the digital changes required to offset the challenges relating to multiple different statutory frameworks.”

(Earlier reports have cited the difficulty of public sector procurement practices for SMEs, and conversely, that public sector organisations “may not have access to the requisite commercial and technical expertise when procuring ICT, meaning they are unable accurately to define their ICT requirements, evaluate the best placed suppliers to meet these, and assess and challenge supplier performance.”)

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The proposal comes as fears grow that the local authority funding crunch will leave many unable to deliver basic services, and cutting investment in vitally needed digital transformation initiatives.

A recent PwC report, for example, found that a massive 68 percent of local councils simply are not using data to inform their decision making process. Eighty percent, meanwhile, told the consultancy that the feel they’re not “embracing opportunities” that new technologies offer.

James Jamieson, Chairman of the LGA, said: “This year’s positive funding settlement [agreement from HMG to finance councils] will help councils meet the rising cost and demand pressures they face this year.

See also: “Get Your On-Premises Licensed Software off Our (And the Other) Clouds”: Microsoft

“[But] this is only a one-year settlement. Councils continue to face severe funding and demand pressures that continue to stretch local services to the limit and a funding gap that could reach almost £6.5 billion by 2025.”

He added: “The Budget and the Spending Review need to provide a sustainable, long-term funding settlement for councils which means they can improve services and not just keep them going.

Among the LGA’s other proposals… involving councils more in the Government’s National Infrastructure Strategy, as the LGA believes it could play a critical role in delivering high-speed broadband and 5G infrastructure.

(Improved connectivity for councils would also allow them to increase their digital capabilities and reduce costs.)

What can local authorities do to reduce software licensing costs?

We’re interested in hearing case studies, from councils or systems integrators. Contact conor.reynolds(at) cbronline.com

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