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LGA - Councils go digital to improve services and save money

Improving the quality of adult social care visits, introducing live web chat for council taxpayers and an app that saves £20,000 in a year are just three examples of ways councils are using digital tools and solutions to improve services and cut costs.

A team covering the three councils of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, and Hammersmith & Fulham has saved an estimated £2 million. This is being delivered by cutting staff travel time by using mobile technology to collect, review and update case information for each adult social care visit.

Equipping staff with mobile technology also enables them to look up information about a resident while in their home and spend time showing them related information and resources, encouraging greater self-sufficiency.

This case study is just one of 13 in an interim evaluation of the Digital Experts Programme for the Local Government Association (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 were judged advanced sufficiently to be presented with lessons drawn from their experience.

Also featured is the MyStaffsApp, a smartphone app offering access to a range of services provided by both county and district councils. It 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.

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council estimated it was able to save over £7,000 in the period April 2015 to the end of January 2016 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. It 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 accounts, on house moves from three to four weeks to the same day, by introducing a digital Citizen Access tool for council tax.

A number of problems were also highlighted. These 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 an extra licence for administration, or additional software to print transaction reports and review cyber security.

Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA's Improvement and Innovation Board, said:

"There is a lot of excellent working going on in councils 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, and the results make interesting reading.

"It is great to see councils learning from each other and adopting the digital tools which have already been developed. We want to support the sector to share these assets more effectively so there will be bigger benefits for more councils."

Cllr Tim Mitchell, Westminster Council's Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services, said:

"This LGA initiative has produced an invaluable resource for local authorities. In sharing our experiences councils hit the accelerator on revolutionising public sector service delivery. Digital by default improves customer experience, saves time and ultimately taxpayers' money. Together we are leading the digital transformation of local government."

Cllr Warwick Lightfoot, Kensington and Chelsea Council Cabinet Member for Finance and Strategy, said: "The Digital Experts' programme has helped our staff to identify practical improvements in the service they offer the public. The application of technology has enabled staff in the three organisations to work together more effectively and has reduced the cost of providing these services.

Publication

Neil Durham
Senior Media Relations Officer
Local Government Association
Phone: 020 7664 3359
Email: neil.durha

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