Harnessing digital, data and technology opportunities to save public money
Find guidance on this page to help target resources effectively by harnessing the opportunity of digital, data and technology solutions to ensure they provide efficiencies and savings for local people and public sector budgets.
Resources and support
- Digital Housing Programme - the LGA funded five councils to reuse the digital assets and learning from the Kent Home Choice Partnership project. This was to support local government to respond to the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and scale up across other councils the resources and assets developed under a previously successful LGA digital programme.
- Digital Inclusion Programme - supports 10 councils to work with specific cohorts of residents to support those who haven’t had the skills, confidence or infrastructure to go online so they can benefit from the potential for digital tools and solutions to contribute to improving life outcomes.
The aims of the SCDIA Digital Discharge to Assess project were to develop a cloud-based case management system that did not depend on a single IT partner or supplier; allow users (with appropriate permissions) to capture, update, track, and report on data about a person’s journey through the Discharge to Assess process; create a ‘single version of the truth’, with a raft of associated patient benefits and service efficiencies.
Our digital funded programmes support councils to innovate and improve digital services.
Achieving for Children is a community interest company (a not-for-profit social enterprise) created in 2014 by the Royal Borough of Kingston and the London Borough of Richmond to provide their children’s services. In August 2017, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead became a co-owner of AfC, and we now deliver children’s services across all three boroughs.
With increased demand and pressure on children’s services, and finite resources to support this, Achieving for Children has embarked on an automation project, using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology. Acting as a digital assistant, RPA allows staff to shift their focus onto high value tasks instead of working on tasks that are manual and repetitive.
The aim of this work has been to:
Improve and increase productivity Improve service quality
They are currently in the pilot phase of the project and have so far achieved the automation of police and online referrals that come through to the Single Point of Access (SPA) service. This was previously dealt with manually by contact officers, who were required to take information from referral forms and input this onto our case management system before allocating to work trays. This work took up the bulk of the contact officers’ day-to-day work, and had to be prioritised above all other duties.
The benefits of the automation for the SPA service are intended to be the following: Having fewer people accessing inboxes to extract referrals, which will increase confidentiality and reduce the risk of information being missed, moved or deleted. By automating the tasks, the SPA service should be able to improve the service, by sending through clearer and more analytical work. Having more consistent and detailed information available in the case management system through robotically added comments that are available without drilling down, particularly concerning the type of referral and additional considerations that only come to light when comparing information from different sources. The Service should no longer have to deal with a backlog of information that is received over the weekends as these will have been processed overnight, by the bot, before staff arrive. The contact officers should be able to focus on more high value tasks.
- Improve customer service
- Have more efficient workflow processes
- Allow workers to focus on high value tasks and/or frontline work
- Save costs
January 2019 saw the first rollout of an end-to-end smart parking system in the town of Harrogate, which had growing issues with congestion for both residents and visitors.
The initiative brought environmental improvements, as well as social and economic benefits.
Working in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council and the provider, Appy Parking, Harrogate Borough Council identified the key areas and spaces that were available and installed in-road parking sensors. Drivers then used an app to locate a free space and to pay seamlessly for their parking. This proved to be more time and cost-efficient and to improve overall customer satisfaction. More than 2,200 sensors were installed across on-street and off-street parking locations. Up to the end of August 2020, more than 14,500 people had used the system for 146,000 parking sessions.
Over the 18-month pilot, 627 smart parking users were surveyed by email. Of these:
83 per cent say that using smart parking alleviated stress normally associated with using a pay and display machine. 93 per cent say that smart parking is more convenient than using a pay and display machine. 89 per cent believe a smart parking solution makes parking easier. 74 per cent think the ability to pay for parking via an app is an important requirement for residents.
Due to the benefits identified through a smart parking solution, there is an appetite to identify and rollout a scalable solution across North Yorkshire. North Yorkshire County Council is interested to hear from other local authorities that have been working on or are planning similar smart parking initiatives to inform their research and development.
For more information and an informal conversation, please contact [email protected]
From March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic meant less activity in the area, with fewer visitors to the town. However, from detailed analysis of data and user feedback the trial of smart parking in Harrogate was deemed successful. Information collated during the trial suggests that smart parking:
Improves customer experience Benefits the local economy Benefits the environment Improves operational and strategic insight Is financially beneficial to both users and the Local Authorities
- 56 per cent of users have saved time finding a car parking space. This has inevitably led to fewer miles driven in the town and reduced CO2 emissions.
- 23 per cent of users think live availability has helped reduce congestion caused by cars looking for parking.
The smart parking trial has resulted in fewer miles being driven in Harrogate town centre, having a positive impact on the environment:
32 per cent of users now check availability in-app before they arrive at their destination.
The smart parking trial also supported a positive vision for the town centre, with feedback stating:
62 per cent of users say they stay longer in Harrogate town because they don’t have to worry about a pay and display ticket expiring. 60 per cent of users were more likely to park in Harrogate because they can pay in-app
Revenue and Benefits Alpha project 2022 – funded by Local Digital
I last wrote an article for the IRRV in 2020 when we were successful in obtaining Local Digital funding for a discovery project working in partnership with five other councils to determine the feasibility of an open source Revenue and Benefits system.
Now, in 2022 we have been successful in obtaining further funding from DLUHC for the Alpha phase of the project, working with Sedgemoor, Basildon and Brentwood, Leeds, East Devon councils, and consultants @MadeTech.
A lot has changed in the world since then but some of the frustrations and concerns around the current Revenue and Benefits systems offer unfortunately still remain. In 2020 local authorities identified key concerns with the current offers, whilst accepting that they met the statutory requirements and ultimately customers were paid their benefits. Those concerns were:
- An out of touch user experience
- Systems performance with workarounds the norm. Partners estimated an average of between six and 15 per cent of Revs and Bens staff time is spent on manual workaround
- Spiralling costs with the average system are £138k per year (collectively £42.6million)
- A desire for a more modular and flexible approach with greater integration
- A need for a new service model
At the end of 2020 into 2021 Revenue and Benefits teams were faced with a new set of challenges. New schemes were launched to help struggling businesses and vulnerable customers. Seven business grant schemes, test and trace support and council tax hardship payments to be administered and paid ASAP.
Some councils found that they could not configure their existing Revenue and Benefits systems to respond quickly, and there were delays with suppliers developing their own solutions (at a cost).
Other platforms were used to develop customer forms and automate processing, notifying customers of updates on their claims and processing payments. This was achieved by downloading data from the Revenue and Benefits systems and developing forms and processes to cross reference with this data rather than using the systems themselves or purchasing third party add-ons.
Despite Covid pressures, Sedgemoor have invested in the last two years in rebuilding their Revenue and Benefits system and undertaking user acceptance testing for their first module, Business Rates. The new system is:
- being rebuilt as open source
- componentised and cloud native
- has layers for data, business logic, interfaces and user interface
- has APIs for every feature of each layer
- has APIs to connect to enterprise platforms including identity management, records and document management, workflow and payments
- multi tenanted for immediate core functionality updates
- separates core functionality from localised policies
- enables each council to configure their use of the system to suit their needs, and local environment
Reflecting on the findings of the Discovery project, the purpose of the Alpha set out to demonstrate that migration is possible, and provide evidence of the level of risk by:
- Testing migration and interoperability - proving that data can be transformed and loaded into the Sedgemoor system, and connect to local enterprise components e.g. CRM, Payments, Document Management, Workflow.
- Proposing governance, support and sustainability - setting up and testing a community of practitioners and developers, and giving assurance that the system will continue to be developed and enhanced. Building value-added services such as training and support and testing options for a funding model are also key elements.
- Improving customer experience - demonstrating that the digital and interoperable features of the SDC system can lead to a better, more joined up experience both for business rate customers and staff.
We’re working in an open and agile way: the change and progress is rapid and, of course at times, unpredictable! Currently we have hosted the Sedgemoor system in azure and data mapping business rates data from one council’s existing supplier’s system to migrate into the Sedgemoor system. ! If successful, the financial, digital and customer benefits could be significant.
This is no mean feat as migration is seen as one of the biggest barriers to local authorities adopting a new system. Whilst a new system supplier could have access to a council’s raw business rates or benefits data, they may not have access to the ‘source code’ that creates and processes the data, nor will they have the full database documentation. Possibly the legacy supplier may decline to provide it.
On a positive note it looks like the migration of data from one supplier is looking promising, but we are still in negotiation with the other legacy supplier to see if they are willing to assist us.
If you’d like to see how we’re doing and would like to be kept fully in the loop, please register your interest on our website at openrb.localgov.blog and check out Slack at LocalGovDigital #revbensalpha
Amanda Pujol, Head of Community Services and Improvement, Teignbridge District Council
The Sevenoaks District Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) have pooled resources for a new digital solution, which is helping residents to travel in ways that observe social distancing measures. The LSP is led by Sevenoaks District Council and comprises others including Kent County Council, the local NHS, Police Service, and a range of VCS and faith sector partners, such as Age UK, and Sevenoaks’ network prover, Go Coach.
The partnership has pooled resources to implement a CIL funded mobile application (developed by ViaVan) that uses Go-Coach buses to provide an on-demand transport service for residents. This service, named ‘Go2’, uses Go Coach’s vehicles to provide an affordable, rideshare service, which offers residents’ transport on ‘as needed’ basis (e.g. to purchase groceries or medication). Go2 has extended the traditional service footprint area to ensure that residents in otherwise isolated areas are connected to nearby hospitals and other key community assets—and so NHS Workers and Police Community Support Officers who rely on public transport are still able to commute to work. Passenger safety is maintained by ensuring passengers are able keep 2m distance between each other by using 28 passenger capacity buses (at a minimum) and restricting the number of people to no more than 10 per trip at any given time.
The app can be download via iOS and Google Play stores. Residents can also access the service via a dedicated phoneline, so all community members (including anyone who does not have access to or is unable to use the app) can still access this transport option. The council and VCS are using online platforms, e.g. Facebook, to promote the service across the district.
The service proven highly popular with residents, which maintains a five star rating on iOS and received more than 500 passengers within the first eight days of operating.