Only just over half of local authorities across the UK are prepared to deal with a cyber attack, according to a survey of more than 100 council leaders by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
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The survey also revealed that only 35% of respondents are confident that their staff members are well equipped to deal with cyber threats.
The latest PwC Global CEO survey showed that 76% of UK CEOs are concerned about cyber threats and that 97% are currently addressing cyber breaches affecting business information or critical systems.
The poll of council leaders revealed that local authorities see themselves as being vulnerable in the face of cyber attacks.
A parallel survey of 2,000 consumers found that just 34% of respondents trust their council to manage and share their data and information appropriately.
However, at the same time, there is a growing appetite for council services to be available online, particularly from those who already use digital services.
Four in 10 say they would like more online services overall, with a clear preference among younger people: 56% of 18 to 34-year-olds are in favour, compared with 34% of respondents aged 55 or over.
When it comes to councils embracing technology, there has been a notable drop in confidence over the past 12 months.
The number of leaders who believe that technology will help them engage with communities and residents better has jumped from 54% in 2016 to 83% in 2017. But when it comes to delivery, only 61% of authorities are confident in their digital approach – down from 76% in 2016.
Most significantly, there has been a change in what councils believe digital can deliver for them. In 2016, 80% of respondents felt technology would enable them to reduce costs, but this has fallen to 58% in this year’s survey.
“As councils look ahead to the future, there will be new risks to manage, from the shift away from grant funding, to an ever more demanding public,” said PwC partner Jonathan House. “The recent ransomware attacks, and other high-profile incidents impacting them, show some of these challenges.
“However, councils have proved before their resilience and ability to deal with any challenge they are faced with. The survey data suggests that councils have taken cost out of their operations – now the challenge is to manage and grow their capabilities, to utilise technology as a force for growth and to deliver citizens’ expectations of a digital organisation.
“As they look to the future, they will need to find new ways to innovate and invest in these drivers of growth, and all in the face of continued uncertainty.”