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MHCLG changes approach to Local Digital Fund

22/02/21

Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is changing the way it manages the Local Digital Fund.

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Its Local Digital Collaboration Unit (LCDU), which operates the fund, has pointed towards a move away from the current round based approach, under which the funding is allocated to several projects at six-monthly intervals, to a continuous funding model.

It said this would save teams in local authorities from waiting until the next round opens to make an application or rush it to meet a deadline.

The fund supports projects run by groupings of councils to develop digital solutions to specific issues that can be reused in local government.

Over five rounds so far it has provided nearly £5 million to 35 initiatives.

The LCDU said that feedback from councils’ project teams has highlighted some unintended consequences from opening the fund twice a year. Some have said they rushed their work to submit a bid in time, which has affected the attention to detail and quality of outputs.

Others have finished the work months beforehand and felt the wait had taken some momentum out of the work.

Key ingredients

“We’re conscious that project momentum and continuity – especially when it comes to the team working on the project – are key ingredients for success,” the LDCU said. “We need to improve our funding process so that it doesn’t unwittingly speed up or slow down progress.”

It is now developing a process under which, when a project reaches the end of phase of work and needs further funding to progress, it will be invited to submit a proposal. This will involve progress measures defined in advance by LDCU collaboration managers and the project team.

A review panel will assess the previous work and futures to make a decision on whether and how much funding to award.

The LDCU said that it is not yet sure on whether it will continue to run open rounds for applications.

Image from iStock, Gocmen

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