Monday, 06 June 2016 11:30

'Digital' councils improve services

Written by  Ruralcity Media
'Digital' councils improve services

MORE councils are using digital technology to improve services and save money, says a report.

Even simple digital services can save as much as £20,000 a year, according to a case study contained in an interim evaluation by the Local Government Association.

It features the example of the MyStaffsApp, a smartphone app offering access to a range of services provided by county and district councils in Staffordshire.

The app has been used in almost 40,000 sessions and Staffordshire County Council estimates that savings would be £22,500 if only a fifth of these avoided a call.

This case study is just one of 13 in an interim evaluation of the Digital Experts Programme for the LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales.

The programme was established in March 2015 when the LGA agreed to fund 27 projects involving 42 councils.

Its goal was to enable more councils to use digital tools and approaches already successfully applied by their peers.

A total of £390,000 was awarded, with single councils receiving £10,000 and groups of councils being given £25,000.

By early 2016, 13 of the 27 case studies were judged advanced sufficiently to be presented with lessons drawn from their experience.

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council estimated it saved over £7,000 in 10 months through its investment in live web chat, enabling users to shift from more expensive contact channels.

Between December 2015 and mid-March 2016 Test Valley Council received and processed 420 electronic change notifications for council tax.

The local authority estimates savings at over £2,000 if every notification received through this route avoided a customer telephone call and back office work.

It was also able to reduce the time taken to set up "house move" accounts from three to four weeks to the same day, by introducing a digital Citizen Access tool for council tax.

But the report also highlights a number of problems – included the challenge of linking systems or transferring information.

Feedback from these projects also highlighted the potential for unplanned costs to emerge, including the requirement to buy extra licences for administration.

LGA improvement and innovation chairman David Simmonds said councils were continuing to develop and implement innovative digital ways of providing services.

"The Digital Experts programme gives a helping hand to those councils who are keen to draw on the learning of their peers and quickly implement what has worked well elsewhere.”

Councillor Simmonds said the results made interesting reading.

He added: “We want to support the sector to share these assets more effectively so there will be bigger benefits for more councils."

People in this conversation

Leave your comments

0 / 500 Character restriction
Your text should be in between 10-500 characters
terms and condition.