The European Services Directive

The European Services Directive aims to enable cross-border trade in services. And information professionals can help, says Sue Brown.

The aim of the European Services Directive (Directive 2006/123/EC) is to open up the European internal market to cross-border trade in services, by making it easier for service providers to set up business or offer their services in other EU countries.

The Directive in the UK

The Directive was brought into UK law by the Provision of Services Regulations 2009.  Responsibility for ensuring compliance with the Directive rests with The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).  BIS has established an online ‘Point of Single Contact' for service providers to help them to find out about doing business in the UK.

The whole process of applying for a licence to provide a service must be fully electronic. BIS has provided a consistent approach to implementation in the UK by setting up a portal which publishes templates and processes.

The Directive covers bodies that set the rules and requirements that service providers will have to comply with (including government departments, devolved administrations, local authorities, licensing and authorisation bodies and other authorities such as professional bodies or bodies that maintain required registers or deliver required training qualifications). The business sectors and services include accountants, builders, vets, travel agents, hairdressers and business consultants.

It has been estimated that the UK economy could benefit £4-6 billion per annum, and that up to 80,000 new jobs could be created. In particular, UK local authorities stand to benefit from a greater choice of suppliers for services which are already open to competition through public tendering. The electronic processing of licence applications should remove unnecessary administrative barriers, resulting in cost and time savings and enable quicker and simpler ways of co-operating with other local and competent authorities in the UK and other EU countries.

One year on

The Directive is moving on from an implementation stage into one of development. Processes are being enhanced in the light of user experience and lessons learnt are being transferred across service areas.  Against this background is the increasing need to consider the European Digital Agenda, Europe's strategy for implementing a flourishing digital economy by 2020. The overall aim of the Digital Agenda is to deliver sustainable economic and social benefits from a digital single market, based on fast and ultra fast internet and interoperable applications.

The role of information professionals

Public services face a tough economic future.  They must become more efficient in the way they do business whilst recognising that customers will want to interact with them as efficiently as possible.

The Directive provides LIS professionals with an opportunity to demonstrate how their skills can deliver key corporate policies, such as a ‘single view of customers and property' and provision of more self-service, online services to decrease 'avoidable contact', reduce delivery costs and improve satisfaction rates with service access.

Pragmatically LIS professionals can help to improve the quality and utilisation of data collected as part of the online licence application process and advise on data migration into Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or other back office systems. Strategically they can advise on citizen focus, digital inclusion agendas and channel shift strategies to support improved access to services and deliver greater efficiencies.

Sue Brown is a freelance project manager, specialising in knowledge management, data sharing and digital inclusion. Former Deputy CEO of CILIP: the Institute for Library and Information Professionals, Sue set up her own company (Susan Brown Associates Ltd.) in 2006 and has worked for various government departments, strategic partnerships and other public sector bodies on asset rationalisation and channel shift programmes. Together with a colleague, Sue delivered training on the EU Services Directive to over 700 people. 

Image courtesy of fdecomite on Flickr.