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Councils’ Covid-19 projects win £800,000 from Local Digital Fund


Mark Say Managing Editor

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A group of local authorities have won £800,000 to support 11 digital projects aimed at solving common problems around the coronavirus pandemic.

The money comes from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) Local Digital Fund, following a competition that involved 125 applications from 94 council signatories in just two weeks.

The Local Digital Collaboration Unit in MHCLG has made the allocations, drawing on a special award from the fund calling for projects in one of three thematic areas: data and reporting, community engagement and developing new working practices.

It said an important part of the pledge is that the authorities share what they can achieve with other councils.

The 11 projects are as follows:

  • Camden Council has been given £80,000 to make it easier for local people and businesses to have their say online on subjects such as major planning projects and town centre changes. It will work with Middlesbrough Council, building on changes to the rules allowing councils to publicise planning applications on social media.
  • South Gloucestershire Council and the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames will jointly receive £80,000 to build on increased online access to public meetings in response to social distancing measures. A number of other councils are involved in the project.
  • Leeds City Council has been granted £79,500 to develop a guide for councils to ensure local people who struggle with digital technology get help. Croydon and Eastbourne Councils will also be involved.
  • Greater Manchester Combined Authority will receive £80,000 to develop a predictive modelling system to understand and prepare for the possible knock-on effects of the pandemic on vulnerable children.
  • The development of a tool for people to know which parts of a city may be overcrowded, and for councils to predict overcrowding, will receive £67,500. Newcastle City Council is running the project, which builds on the recent launch of its service.
  • A grant of £80,000 will go to Central Bedfordshire Council to build on successful data sharing between councils and voluntary services to support vulnerable people. The Greater London Authority and Camden Council will also take part.
  • A group of councils – Huntingdongshire, Tameside, Greater Manchester, North Yorkshire, Bolton, Sedgemoor and those in Somerset – will receive £120,000 to use information that has been most useful in improving how councils can identify vulnerable people.
  • East Riding of Yorkshire Council will receive £76,000 to build on what it has learned about changes in staff working during the pandemic, with aim of designing future working patterns to maximise productivity, efficiency and staff wellbeing.
  • A grant of £80,000 will go to Manchester City Council to learn from how council teams have worked together to support vulnerable residents.
  • Bolton Council will receive £23,000 to help ensure people are not used to access services online are not excluded. This will involve looking at remote and self-service methods.
  • Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council will get £34,000 to add extra functions to its smartphone app to prevent overcrowding on beaches.

Local Government Minister Simon Clarke MP said: “Councils have made huge efforts to support their residents at this testing time - by housing rough sleepers quickly, supporting vulnerable people and ensuring services such as bin collections continue.

“They have had to adapt their services from in-person to online, using technology to do so and I am determined we capitalise on this and use everything we have learned to improve efficiency and make services better for residents and communities.

“That’s why we’re giving them £800,000 to build on the rapid digital innovation of recent months so that local communities continue to feel the benefits of more efficient public services.”

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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