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£7.5m boost for online council services

A new “digital pledge” backed by £7.5m of government funding aims to help councils transform their online services.

The new initiative would change the way councils invest in technology, share expertise and ensure local residents receive the best quality services.

More than 50 local authorities, government departments and other organisations have signed up to the Local Digital Declaration pledge, agreeing a common vision for the future of local services.

Digital services have long been seen as one way of delivering public services to rural communities – so long as the right broadband infrastruture is in place.

Local government minister Rishi Sunak said many councils were at the forefront of digital innovation – whether it was an app to report fly-tipping, or online services to pay council tax.

But there was much more to do, he added.

“I want councils and partners across the country to sign up to this declaration. By supporting each other and building on each other’s work we can revolutionise services for our residents.

“While many councils already have excellent online offerings, the digital declaration is about sharing the best innovation across the public sector to benefit people.”

In Leicestershire, for example, the Leicester and Rutland school nursing service worked with young people to help them get health advice by text – Chat Health.

Mr Sunak said the service was engaging young people in ways that suited their lives and preferences – and had now been rolled out to 30 areas and a million residents.

As part of the initiative, local authorities across the country will also be able to bid for a share of the £7.5m innovation fund to help develop common solutions to their shared challenges.

The pioneering new approach would also see a new course developed to train senior local authority staff in digital leadership skills, said Mr Sunak.

Alongside this, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government would establish a new team to work with councils to help them deliver on their declaration commitments.

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