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Councils awarded funding for digital innovation projects

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government digital innovation fund awarded to a range of projects, including chatbots, artificial intelligence and town planning transformation

The government has awarded £1.3m to local authorities for a range of digital innovation projects, aiming to harness technology.

The funding is part of the £7.5m digital innovation fund launched by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in September 2018.  

The fund 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, and help local authorities change the way they invest in technology.

In the first round of the fund, 16 projects, involving 57 councils, have been awarded up to £100,000 to explore the potential of technology and innovation.

Projects receiving funding include the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which, together with 10 partners, is being given £74,900 to simplify data protection impact assessments through using digital technology, and sharing the method with others across the country, and the Greater London Authority and its four partners being awarded £100,000 to improve data collection, thereby providing better information to planning departments.  

Announcing the winners of the first round, local government minister Rishi Sunak said embracing digital technology could “revolutionise public services”.

“Within local government, I firmly believe it has the potential to improve a range of services in a host of different ways. Ultimately, our aim is to make services better for users, but it is likely to reduce costs for councils too. This could be by improving the experience of someone in care, streamlining the admin that comes with the stress of moving home, or offering a simpler way to license taxis,” he said.

“These are just some of the successful ideas which I am delighted to announce government funding for today. I’m excited to see these projects come to fruition.”

Another project receiving funding is Oxford City Council, which, together with 12 partners, has been given £80,000 to look at whether chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) can improve public service design, and the potential for creating a platform for councils to share solutions around using new technologies.

The government’s local digital collaboration unit, set up as part of the Local Digital Declaration, will also work with LocalGov Digital to create a shared platform where people can see the details of all the digital transformation projects within local government.

Digital skills training is also available to local councils which have been successful in their bids for funding.  

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.


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