Report of Government Reviews 1



Greg Falconer and Bruno Longmore, chaired by David Thomas

There were strong similarities between these two talks. Both emphasised the need for a broader cultural change to improve record keeping, and the importance of senior management buy-in.  They also both spoke about how changing things now for longer term effect was key. As both Falconer and Longmore are civil servants their talks were chock full of buzz words, my favourites being ‘future proofing’, ‘empowering’ and, of course, ‘no silver bullet’.

Falconer spoke about his joint project between the Cabinet Office, TNA and the Government Digital Service for maintaining digital records. He began by reassuring us that although he wasn’t an archivist he did study history at university and because he was ‘a policy guy’ he had been welcomed into Whitehall. Falconer explained how the Government’s move to working in the cloud rather than servers has presented new challenges. He emphasised the power of default and suggested a default retention schedule. He also suggested the possibility of a medium term storage solution, so records are not stored in the cloud if they don’t need to be accessed regularly, before possible transfer to the archive. Longer term implications were also discussed. He was adamant that active records management was required and that things needed to be changed now for future effect.

During the q & a session, however, he was challenged quite strongly, especially over the decision to not keep everything. He defended this with reasons of cost and that currently data analytics are simply not good enough, and also that his team want to encourage good record habits rather than encourage unstructured data. Not all in the room were convinced.

Longmore also emphasised that there was no quick fix solution but that we needed longer term solutions. His talk was about the Public Records (Scotland) Act 2011 which came into force in January 2013. He gave an honest account of the background to it (arising from a major scandal involving historic child abuse at care homes and which resulted in the Shaw Report), and showed the widespread lack of respect for documents which had been destroyed or lost. This Act is far more relevant for the modern age than the previous 1937 act in Scotland, or England and Wales’ current version, and well worth a read. It makes provision for each authority to make a records management plan with 14 elements, which must be regularly revisited (at least every 5 years) rather than simply a tick box exercise. Longmore also emphasised the need for senior managers to support records management.ngmore banded some scary statistics about the number of children in care (over 480,000 in Scotland since 1930s) and pointed out that many of these will want to access their record one day, possibly even decades after they left care. He spoke about different initiatives that helped close gaps in life stories such as Reclaiming Lost Childhood and emphasised that there was no silver bullet answer.  It was an interesting talk, especially to a room which included many non-Scots who were largely unaware of the detail behind the Act.


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