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Councils get funding to build on Covid-19 digital progress

The latest council funding is intended to ensure continued modernisation in public services delivery

Local authorities across England will get a share of £800,000 in funding to build on digital progress made during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The funding from the £7.5m Local Digital Fund is intended to support modernisation and improvements to the way public services are delivered digitally. Some 11 councils were awarded to advance the projects aimed at solving issues relating to the coronavirus outbreak.

The announcement by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government comes two years after the launch of the Local Digital Declaration, which aims to set out how councils can transform public services in a collaborative manner. The Local Digital Fund is part of the pledge.

“[Councils] 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,” said Simon Clarke, local government minister.

Examples of projects that have been awarded funding include one led by Camden Council, which will receive £80,000 in funding, and work with Middlesbrough Council on the evolution of an online platform that enables local people and businesses to have their say on things such as major planning projects and town centre changes.

A predictive modelling system to understand and prepare for the possible knock-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic on vulnerable children is also among the selected projects. The initiative is being led by Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which will will receive £80,000 to develop the project.

A tool which could be used to help councils predict overcrowding will be developed by Newcastle City Council with £67,500 in funding. With the system, it will also be possible to know which parts of a city may be overcrowded and where social-distancing measures may be hard to adhere to.

Remote and self-service ways to provide solutions to people who are unused to online services, such as considering the introduction of sealed pods for face-to-face conversations, is the theme of another project by Bolton Council, which has been awarded a £23,000 share of the funding.

Since its first round in 2018, the Local Digital Fund supported lead councils, which share projects aimed at improving public services for residents in innovative ways with at least two other local authorities.

Previous rounds in 2019 supported ideas that range from online ways to support vulnerable people, making social housing repairs more efficient, and training council staff in digital skills.

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