The Government Connect Board is chaired by Janet Callendar, Tameside's Chief Executive, and includes senior representation from the DWP, DCSF, DCLG, LGA and IDeA. Today's agenda included a short presentation, from me, of a survey of Local Authorities' preparedness to achieve the GCSx Code of Connection and engage with Government Connect, which was undertaken by Mark Brett on behalf of Socitm. In summary, recommendations from the survey were:
- Clear, consistent communications are needed. (An issue for the whole of Government and all its businesses.)
- There should be regional support & sharing of good practice.
- A range of (stipulated) Training is required.
- Practitioners' Forums & Resources should be set-up.
- There should be a CoCo (Code of Connection) Implementation "Toolkit".
- Guidance and clarification on protective marking is required.
Philip Littleavon, the Government Connect Programme Director, then presented the Programme's proposed response, comprising a package of support that will be launched at the Socitm Annual Conference, which was agreed.
I am well aware, from discussions with colleagues at the various Socitm meetings I've attended, of some of the concerns and anxieties there are around achieving the CoCo within the stipulated timescales, and also of some apparent barriers. Having previously been one of the most vocal critics of Government Connect, I firmly believe, now, that the present apptroach is the most practical means of addressing pan-Government security, which none of us can deny is a critical requirement in joined-up Government. If there are flaws, they will be fixed. It's only part of the solution and, as yet, is far from "pan-Government", but it's the only realistic starting point and Government Connect, as a pan-Government security mechanism, is gaining traction. Socitm can, and should, help that process. The Government Connect Team is supporting the Gov X Discussion Forum that we set-up to debate and resolve concerns. Socitm is determined to act as a "critical friend" to Government Connect (and all of Government). If things are not right, we will say so – but also suggest, or help to identify, solutions – but should not obfuscate or obstruct.
I will be happy for colleagues to write to me personally with any comments or concerns.
Having said all that, I am very encouraged by, and pleased to report, other items on our agenda, which included engagement with the DfES EAS (Employee Authentication Services) development and with the "Ocean" procurement of the successor to GSi (Government Secure Intranet).
The meeting had not quite finished when I had to leave to travel back to East Ham to attend a Newham Finance Lunchtime Seminar on Strategic Projects – my interest being, of course, the NTC programme.
Back at Direct House, I met BT's Fiona Dew for our regular update. She introduced Tony Digweed, the new Regional Sales Manager for the London Local Government Sector. My main update for BT was that the potential redevelopment of our Bridge Road site as a new regional Data Centre now looks very unlikely. The value placed on the site by the potential developers was insufficient versus alternatives.
In the evening I attended a dinner and discussion of "IT Security in the Public Sector", hosted by Lord Erroll in the Attlee Room at the House of Lords. Duncan Hine – Executive Director, Identity and Passport Service – was the main speaker. The discussion was lively and engaging but – you guessed it - under Chatham House rules!
Got home a little before midnight.