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Buckinghamshire Council drives efficiencies with Microsoft Copilot

With local government facing a funding crisis, Buckinghamshire Council hopes artificial intelligence can boost efficiency and reduce outgoings

Buckinghamshire Council has deployed Copilot for Microsoft 365 to improve operational efficiency. By using Microsoft’s artificial intelligence (AI) tool, the council said it has been able to save up to 90 minutes a day on routine tasks, while also improving accessibility.

The council said the new technology has been a “game-changer” in its quest to improve efficiency and make its hard-pressed resources stretch further. It hopes Copilot will drive further efficiencies and transform working practices. 

“Local authorities are seeing this technology as a partial silver bullet,” said Peter Parfitt, head of digital at Buckinghamshire Council. “No council is swimming in cash. But we wanted to deploy Copilot, not because we had to do it, but because it was the right thing to do.”

The council believes even bigger wins will follow when it employs Copilot to enhance frontline services, such as social care and housing, which account for the bulk of its budget.

“If we can be more efficient, that’s fantastic,” said Parfitt, “But if we can trim just 1% off the cost of social care, that’s where the real pressures are.”

Buckinghamshire Council created a council-wide collaboration group that offered guidance and a chat thread to support the roll-out of Microsoft Copilot. The council has also been actively involved in a public sector Copilot user group with 400 members, which meets monthly.

To find uses for AI-driven efficiency gains, the council invited employee teams to pitch for the right to use the technology and explain how they would put the AI tool to good use. The winners were given the opportunity to put their ideas into practice.

“We had some fantastic pitches,” said Buckinghamshire Council’s IT service director, Tony Ellis. “Ultimately, the plan was that they were all going to get licences, but we were starting to tease out that journey of how people would make use of it.”

Copilot has saved up to 90 minutes a day. It makes generating actions from a meeting very quick
Greta Belgrove, Buckinghamshire Council

Around 300 employees were given access to the generative AI assistant, which integrates into Word, Teams, Excel and other Microsoft applications. One of the areas where Copilot has been deployed is the council’s contact centre, which deals with around 8,500 calls a week. 

According to Marie White, head of customer experience at Buckinghamshire Council, the AI Copilot tool has enabled the council to improve its quality and complaints procedures, as well as streamline response drafting and call summarising. 

She said average call handling times have reduced by 30 seconds to two minutes a call. “It promises a future where we can proactively identify areas for improvement before they become a drain on resources,” she said. “I’m confident we will continue to see the benefits.”

Buckinghamshire Council’s business support coordinator, Greta Belgrove, said: “It has saved up to 90 minutes a day. It makes generating actions from a meeting very quick, but we’re still working on making the most of it in Excel.”

Other uses for Copilot include improving accessibility to help hearing-impaired staff transcribe Teams meetings quickly and accurately. The council also believes Copilot could improve experiences for neurodiverse staff.

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