Start-up exec turned local councillor urges peers to follow his lead

Written by Sam Trendall on 15 September 2017 in News
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Niraj Dattani of Harrow Council and Spacehive predicts London 2018 elections could see a number of candidates from the tech world

Niraj Dattani predicted that the 'socially minded' crop of tech executives may stand in London elections next year  Credit: PA

A tech start-up executive turned borough councillor has urged other industry professionals to stand for office, in order to drive local government innovation.

In addition to being an elected representative for the Kenton East ward on Harrow Council, Niraj Dattani works as head of partnerships for London-based firm Spacehive, which offers a crowdfunding platform for local civic projects. Dattani said that he is one of several start-up executives who currently serve on borough councils in the capital.

He predicted that more will follow in London’s local elections next year. And it will take the election – rather than the appointment – of tech-savvy local government leaders to drive innovation and digital transformation, Dattani said.

“Local government is incredibly siloed – if you think of any other siloed organisation and double it, that is local government. The departments need to talk to each other, but you need somebody at the top of the organisation who has that innovation background,” he said.


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“We need people from the private sector moving across to local government – but right now that is not attractive [for most people to join]. Local government is also typically reluctant to hire from outside, because they think that [private sector professionals] will not understand how the council works.”

But, even if the financial constraints mean that the public sector will continue to struggle to attract talent from the commercial world, the current crop of civically minded digital entrepreneurs can still play a key role in transforming local authority service provision.

“The drive has to come from the politicians that have knowledge of the tech sector,” said Dattani. “The tech sector has grown a lot over the last decade and a lot of those guys are socially minded.

London has local elections in 2018. I am pretty sure we will see more councillors coming from tech companies.”

The Harrow councillor was speaking at an event hosted this week in London by industry body techUK.

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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