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LGA - Council services - there's a £230m saving ap for that

Councils saved £230 million last year by using the latest technology to manage services for the iGeneration and pensioners alike, a new report reveals.

Town halls are using mobile, web-mapping and satellite technology to make bin men more efficient, tell people waiting at bus stops where the next bus is and how long it will take to arrive, and keeping them informed about roadworks and planning applications.

Recent innovations also include iPhone applications which allow you to point your phone at a pub, restaurant or take-away and receive its hygiene rating, aps where you can send photographs of fly-tipping and vandalism so councils can deal with it quickly and a program allowing residents to buy a parking ticket before they leave the house.

LGA research found the use of such modern technology increased the productivity of councils by £230 million in 2009.

Councillor David Parsons, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Improvement Board, said:

“Whether it’s bin men working smarter, fewer phone calls to inquiry centres, freeing up staff from time-consuming checks or reducing parking ticket machine maintenance costs, making the most of modern technology and data sharing has seen huge cash savings across the country.

“This is money which can be ploughed into vital frontline services on which millions of people rely each year, and is yet another example of councils striving to be more efficient to make their stretched budgets go as far as possible.

“As well as financial savings, tapping into gadgetry has led to better communication with all members of society, young and old, and raised awareness of the services councils offer and how to get the most from them.

“It is estimated such technology and information sharing could potentially save councils up to £372 million by 2014/15. In this climate of strained budgets, councils must strive to keep reaching more residents and improving services ever more creatively, and look at more ways of working together to make these big savings.”

Underpinning the millions of savings is ‘location-based technology’ - councils linking residents’ locations with services they provide, whether it be meals on wheels, schools, busses, refuse collections or planning applications. This creates clear, accurate maps and provides shareable databases across council departments and between authorities. As residents become more able to access this information via computers and mobile phones, services can be delivered and issues resolved quicker than ever and the need for personal inquiries, paperwork and lengthy reports is vastly reduced.

The current batch of mobile aps are just the start with town halls across the country working on news ones to extend and improve services. Examples in the pipeline include an ap linking a mobile phone’s calendar with refuse collections to remind people on what days to put their recycling and waste bins out.

CASE STUDIES:

Derbyshire Dales, Telford and Wrekin and Huntingdonshire District and Merton councils have launched a free iPod ap to check an eatery’s food hygiene rating, from zero to five stars, as ruled by council environmental health officers.

Gloucestershire County Council was the first council in the world to launch an iPhone ap which allows people in Gloucester to chose when and where they want to park and to pay for a ticket remotely. The new, solar-powered pay machines also alert staff if there’s a fault, reducing maintenance costs.

Lancashire County Council has launched a free ap for people to send it photographs of bus shelter vandalism, while Lewisham Council has a similar program relating to fly-tipping and vandalism for use on iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone and Android.

Bus users in Blackburn can now receive up-to-the minute information on the whereabouts of buses following the launch of a pilot project by Blackburn with Darwen Council. The system, which runs on solar power and utilises satellite technology, gives out real time information, on screen and audio, on a specific service at various bus stops.

South Tyneside Council used location-based information to create the 'My South Tyneside' web facility. It includes a property search facility for finding schools, libraries and other local facilities, and an email alert about local news, community events, how residents can get involved and changes like planning applications and road works. It is estimated up to £146,669 of savings were made via the on-line service rather than the previous telephone or face to face enquiries.

Daventry District Council used location-based technology to improve refuse collection routes through better planned routes. This resulted in £223,000 savings from reduced mileage, less overtime, smaller vehicles and fewer rounds.

Nottingham City Council, working with the local NHS, police, districts and the county council has created an online Local Information System providing access to comprehensive, up-to-date information to neighbourhood level which staff both inside and outside the participating organisations can use to quickly find information they require, and calculate a range of costs and benefits. It saves up to £460,000 a year.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

For more information on the Value of Geospatial report visit http://www.lga.gov.uk/lga/core/page.do?pageId=12079357

Contact numbers for case studies:

Derbyshire Dales - Jim Fearn 01629 761195
Telford and Wrekin - Rebecca Parry 01952 382404
Huntingdonshire District - Donna Rockett 01480 388239
Merton - Bronwen Pickering 020 8545 3483
Lewisham Council - Daniel Shepherd 020 8314 6081
Gloucestershire County Council – Nicola Davies 01452 427432
Lancashire County Council - Jim Smith 01772 536579
Blackburn with Darwen Council - Chris Hidden on 01254 585751
Nottingham City Council - Stephan Richeux 0115 876 3309
South Tyneside Council – Media team 0191 424 7382
Daventry District Council – Simon Hughes 01327 302310

Author: LGA Media Office
Contact: LGA Media Team, Tel: 020 7664 3333

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