Artificial intelligence

After an explosion of interest in artificial intelligence (AI), generative AI tools such as ChatGPT are now household names because of their widespread availability. 

The AI boom is driving a global debate on regulation centred on how to balance its risks and opportunities. In local government, a similar debate is taking place. 

The ambition set out in the Government’s National AI Strategy cannot be achieved without local government: our sector is a crucial part of the UK’s AI-driven future. 

The opportunities that AI presents can be exploited if we manage its risks effectively. AI offers a major opportunity to address many of the challenges we face. 

Take adult and children’s services, for example; AI has the power to address the huge administrative burden on social workers, tackling backlogs, burdens, and barriers to recruitment and retention. 

There is no AI without data. Fortunately for our sector, councils are data-rich environments.

It requires appropriate security, resident engagement and transparency, but, with this in place, AI can help us achieve better value and outcomes for our communities by making the most of our data. 

We need to build and leverage our data foundations by investing the proper resources needed for success, and develop a data-centric culture to equip us for the future. 

AI is already improving service delivery and resulting in cost savings. For instance, Derby City Council has introduced two digital assistants called Darcie and Ali to its websites and contact centre. They are handling more than four in 10 customer queries, double the expected performance, freeing up Derby’s customer service team to give more specialised support. 

Norfolk County Council’s adult social service team is using machine learning, a branch of AI, to collate data and evaluate if an older person is likely to fall over in their home – enabling a shift from reactive support to proactive, preventative support. 

There are, of course, challenges. The results of AI must produce fair outcomes, data must be processed securely and ethically, and transparency must be prioritised. 

The LGA, especially through its AI network, is supporting councils of all parties, tiers, and regions to address these issues, and think about skills and training, alongside procurement and commissioning (email [email protected]). 

An AI-driven future cannot be achieved without local government. Our sector knows the best ways to serve local communities and is best placed to integrate new technology to deliver wider benefits. 

That’s why I hope you will join me at the LGA’s Smith Square Debate on 7 March (see below) to hear more from academics, industry and central and local government about AI’s risks and rewards, and how councils can – and are – preparing.

Risks, rewards and readiness

The LGA’s next Smith Square Debate will bring together a panel of expert speakers to discuss the risks and rewards of artificial intelligence (AI) for local government, and explore the readiness and appetite of local councils to integrate AI into their systems and service delivery.

This is a hybrid event for which you can book an in-person place, at the LGA’s Westminster offices, or a virtual place. The event takes place on 7 March, from 5.15pm to 7.15pm, followed by networking.

To find out more and to make a booking, please visit


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