Agenda item

Digital Strategy Update

To receive a report from the Chief Digital and Information Officer outlining the new digital strategy for the city, the digital transformation work being undertaken with Leeds Health Care Partnership and the planned programme of innovation being developed by the Digital Change Team.


Those in attendance for this item were:


·  Cllr Coupar (Executive Member)

·  Neil Evans (Director, Resources)

·  Leonardo Tantari (Chief Officer, Digital and Information Services)

·  Stephen Blackburn (Innovation Lead)

Leonardo Tantari (Chief Officer, Digital and Information Services) and Stephen Blackburn (Innovation Lead) provided an overview of the new digital strategy for the city. Members were informed that digital transformation work is underway to transform how the Council, in partnership with the Leeds Health and Care Partnership (LHCP), uses data and technology to improve services. A planned programme of innovation was outlined.


Stephen reiterated that a ‘digital first’ - as opposed to a ‘digital only’ – approach will be adopted and that any digital offer will be complementary to existing channels of engagement with the Council. He informed the Scrutiny Board that the Digital Strategy is intended to be a person-centred policy that reflects the life-cycle approach set out in the Best City Ambition.


The Scrutiny Board discussed the challenge of recruiting talent to fill an additional 110 roles within IDS and the potential to work with partner organisations to provide temporary “elastic capacity”. 


Stephen highlighted the three digital priorities for the city: System Flow, Core Business Transformation and establishing a Security Operations Centre.

The Scrutiny Board was informed of the importance of ensuring the city’s ‘digital foundations’ are right. This includes ensuring the Council is collecting, using and protecting the right data, and continuing to prioritise the 100% Digital Leeds programme.


Members raised the following matters:


-  Security Operations Centre: Clarity was sought about how the centre will be resourced. The Board was informed that to provide 24/7 protection 365 days a year the Council will need to work with a partner to deliver the service. Leonardo noted that there is regional interest in establishing a facility and it is anticipated to be a joined-up initiative with other organisations. The enhanced security benefits of a ‘cloud first’ approach were discussed.


-  Digitising social care records: A 2021 Government white paper pledged to ensure 80% of social care providers have a digitised care record that can connect to a shared care record by March 2024. Members sought reassurance about progress towards this target in Leeds and were assured funding has been released for the initial stages of this project, with further funding options being explored for the later stages.


-  Shared Care Record: Members were informed that the development of the Leeds Care Record in recent years puts the city in a stronger position to move to the enhanced Shared Care Record. A new Shared Care Records Board has been established for Leeds.


-  Working with health partners: Officers acknowledged the challenge of creating capacity amongst health care professionals to enable the introduction of and training on new technology. The scale of data that requires digitalisation was discussed along with the challenge of integrating different systems.


-  Digital Academy: Members welcomed the establishment of a digital academy to upskill LCC staff in areas such as data intelligence, cyber security and cloud technology. The potential to increase entry routes for new employees was explored. It was noted that staff retention is a persistent challenge for digital employers. Salary was acknowledged as a challenge in the current market. It was suggested more could be made of the opportunity to work on large-scale transformation projects within the public sector.


-  Digital infrastructure and hardware: The challenges of accessing reliable connectivity and hardware, particularly in some areas of the city, were explored. From a Council perspective members sought clarity about the use of a wider range of devices in future to increase the agility of the workforce. Leonardo also highlighted the closer links being established between the recycling of devices and the 100% Digital Leeds team.


-  Digital Inclusion: Attention was drawn to the community-based partnership activity of the 100% Digital Leeds team. A full update on this programme of activity is received by the Infrastructure, Investment & Inclusive Growth Scrutiny Board on an annual basis. It was agreed that the Principal Scrutiny Advisor would circulate the most recent 100% Digital Leeds update to members of the Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Board for information.


-  Impact on staffing numbers: Neil Evans noted that the organisation has lost around 2,000 staff over the last ten years but still faces a growing budget challenge. It is anticipated that in-year pressures such as a pay rise above the 2% assumed in the 2022/23 budget will exacerbate this situation. To protect public services the organisation will need to change. This will include increased automation, enabling more self-service and re-training staff.


-  Digital Leeds Labs: Further information was sought about solutions that have previously been developed through innovation labs. Stephen Blackburn agreed to provide further information about ‘Leeds Social Housing Picker.’


-  Digital and Data ethics: Members sought clarity about how the development of data and digital ethics will help embed strong governance and a ‘person centred’ approach to assessing new technology and/or data use.


-  Citizen Access: Cllr Coupar reiterated that digital innovation will complement existing channels of communication for Leeds citizens. She highlighted the demand for greater self-service and automation options for standard transactions, to increase flexibility and ease of access for some members of the public.

The Scrutiny Board highlighted the need to continue benchmarking and sharing best practice with other organisations.


Members noted the need to avoid developing bespoke versions of standard systems to avoid increased costs for maintenance, integration and upgrades.


The Scrutiny Board recommended that investment in digital services is prioritised corporately to ensure that transformation programmes can be progressed across all directorates.




Members of the Scrutiny Board:


-  Agreed to support the approach being outlined in the digital strategy, the digital transformation approach, and the innovation programme.


-  Agreed to continue to provide oversight of the broader digital work being delivered by IDS by receiving future update reports at this Scrutiny Board.


-  Requested that the Principal Scrutiny Advisor circulate the 100% Digital Leeds update, as provided to the Infrastructure, Investment & Inclusive Growth Scrutiny Board in April 2022. 


-  Requested further information about Leeds Social Housing Picker.


-  Recommended that investment in digital services is prioritised corporately to ensure that transformation programmes can be progressed across all directorates.


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