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Government launches £7.5m digital innovation fund for local councils

Councils with digital innovation ideas can apply for grants up to £100,000 from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

The government has launched £7.5m in digital innovation funding for local authorities who want to change the way they invest in technology and drive digital projects.

The £7.5m in funding was originally promised by local government minister Rishi Sunak in July 2018, as part of the launch of the Local Digital Declaration, which aims to set out how councils can transform public services.

The funding is now available to councils in the form of grants up to £100,000 for any innovative projects “which demonstrate they benefit local public services” and could be scalable so they can potentially be rolled out across the country.

Launching the funding, Sunak said he encouraged councils which haven’t already signed up to the Local Digital Declaration to do so, in order to “support each other and build on each other’s work to revolutionise public services”.

“Digital innovation is reshaping our lives, and many local authorities are at the forefront of embracing technology in ingenious ways to improve services for the public,” he said.

“Whether it’s an app to report fly-tipping, or a slick web solution to pay your council tax, we want to know the best ideas so we can help to make them happen.”

As part of the plan to improve digital projects in local authorities, those who submit bids for projects can also request digital skills training as part of the application form. The fund’s prospectus said the government will offer “digital leadership and agile project delivery training to support councils in delivering the awarded projects”.

Read more about local government IT

  • Local authorities should ensure they have a digital board made up of academia, local bodies and industry, to drive transformation, improve capacity and capability. 
  • Local Digital Declaration, which sets out five “principles of internet-age local public services”, is backed by £7.5m in government funding to help councils transform services. 
  • While local councillors are generally positive towards the benefits of digital technology, concerns include exclusion, connectivity and unsatisfactory data-sharing arrangements.

The training will initially only be for those receiving funding for projects, but the government aims to expand the digital skills training to remaining local authorities in early 2019.  

According to the prospectus, applications are open to any local authorities and central government departments in England, but all bids will need to “demonstrate input from at least two local authorities”. Those in the rest of the UK can only apply together with a lead applicant who is English.   

Those applying must have signed the Local Digital Declaration and follow the declaration’s principles when delivering the project, the prospectus added.

The government plans to announce the successful projects in the beginning of December 2018.

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