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LGA programme helps councils save money through digital services

The results of the Local Government Association (LGA) Digital Expert Programme so far have been published in an interim evaluation.

In March 2015, the LGA provided £390,000 funding to 27 digital projects involving 42 councils, with individual councils receiving grants of £10,000 and groups of councils being given £25,000. Of these, 13 are now sufficiently advanced to receive evaluation.

The evaluation found that the benefits of the programme included allowing councils to save money, improve staff’s digital knowledge, gather data and work more closely with other councils and the voluntary sector, as well as allowing residents to gain digital knowledge and access services around the clock.

Cllr David Simmonds, chair 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."

The initiatives included MyStaffsApp, an app from Staffordshire county council allowing access to county and district council services. Staffordshire estimated it cost £22,500 by reducing telephone calls.

A tri-borough project covering Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham councils saved an estimated £1.8m on staff travel time by using mobile technology to access information on adult social care visits.

Cllr Tim Mitchell, Westminster Council's cabinet member for finance and corporate services, said: “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.”

However, the report also found that projects had faced a number of start-up problems, including unexpected technical problems, lack of resources and problems with outsourcing partners.

For example, the tri-borough project was significantly delayed because of difficulties establishing a secure mobile connection.

In a recent joint paper with Socitm, Solace and the Local CIO Council, the LGA said that greater devolution and integration is needed to allow councils to improve digital services.

The LGA has established a separate £560,000 fund for digital schemes to improve public sector services.

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