This week MPs published a key report on community budgets with the headline “Grab lifeline offered by Community Budgets or face unsustainable pressure on local services, MPs tell Government”.

Chair of the committee leading the inquiry, Clive Betts MP summarised the findings in the Guardian, highlighting the massive challenges but the critical importance of this opportunity in averting collapse of many local public services.

Those that have read the 700 plus pages of Greater Manchester’s Whole Place Community Budget reports will appreciate the importance of this, and that time is of the essence.

Alongside the requirement for new financial models is the movement of relevant information between agencies so enable these new ways of working.

Steven Pleasant, Chief Executive of Tameside, emphasised this at iNetwork’s Executive Board on Friday, stating unequivocally that “the whole public service reform agenda is predicated on information sharing and being able to assess the risk of or to particular individuals”.

This challenge should not be underestimated. Whilst the Cabinet Office is working on a new Data Sharing Bill, history suggests that this will not be a panacea and that local areas need to find their own solutions.

The easing of the Public Service Network compliance regime, the Government’s response to the Caldicott review plus the fact that the ICO has never fined an organisation for sharing information beneficially all helps. However, as iNetwork blogged last December, information sharing is complicated because of its legal and statutory underpinnings and with the headcount reductions that councils are having to make, it feels that many organisations are losing the skills they will soon realise they badly need.

As councils look to implement Whole Place type approaches and become coordinators of services they need to be thinking more like the Googles of this world and be putting insight and intelligence at the heart of their businesses.

iNetwork continues to coordinate a community of over 500 information professionals at all levels across public sector – SIROs, Information Governance, Caldicott Guardians, Information Security – where discussions are being held as to how organisations can build resilience / capability and be better at managing, protecting and exploiting its information assets for the benefit of commissioning and service delivery.

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