Public sector data protection constraints are “artificial and kneejerk”, and are holding the sector back from “effective customer service”, Eastbourne Borough Council’s deputy CEO, Julian Osgathorpe, has told Computing.
While discussing the council’s new “agile” working programme, using solutions from business process services firm Civica, Osgathorpe told Computing that he felt “visibility” was suffering due to legal regulations that prevented departments from collaborating by combining departmental data siloes.
“The current approach to data protection, I think, and the constraints that exist are artificial and kneejerk,” said Osgathorpe.
“If we genuinely want to join up public sector customer service, we need to look at some of that, because I think it can limit us.”
Osgathorpe stated that “visibility” is diminished by current legislation, and cited various departments he felt that, should they be able to share data, could work more effectively.
“The focus is on basically what you can share – planning applications, council tax data, benefits data, there are restrictions on that,” he told Computing.”But if you join some of that up and combine council tax data with planning applications, it might create a far more effective public sector than we currently have.
If you could join up benefits data with antisocial data and environmental health data, it may allow us to more effectively manage customer interaction.”
When asked if Eastbourne council was involved in talks with the government or the Information Commissioner’s Office to help drive such changes forward, Osgathorpe said that, while the Local Government Association and other groups of its type were engaged in such conversations “at a higher level”, Eastbourne was currently not engaged “on an individual level” with any regulatory bodies.
In 2008, Eastbournce council received the lowest possible rating under the Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA), and was accused of serious financial failings in terms of viability and reporting.
Since then, Osgathorpe has worked hard to remove “the traditional verticality” of the chain of command within the council, and is now confident that the new Civica implementation could support such data sharing in a safe and secure way.
“There are still vertical software accesses, and then we have the horizontal contact manager and access rights for that,” he explained.”All our data exists within the same architecture, so why shouldn’t we be able to use it?”