Our digital council

Digital technologies have the potential to transform and enhance the way services are delivered to residents, while generating efficiencies and reducing pressure on council taxpayers.

Within the complex and shifting world of local government, my council remains committed to preserving face-to-face and telephone contacts for those customers who don’t find it easy to fully engage with the digital world.

However, for those who have access and a desire to use our services digitally – whether that is via a mobile phone, laptop, tablet or computer – we are committed to making this as easy, efficient and effective as we possibly can, so people don’t have to come and see us in person or ring us up.

This council prides itself on working with partners to achieve better outcomes for our residents, and the LGA’s Productivity Experts programme is a great example of that approach. The funding, together with the LGA’s support and expertise, helped us at a time when we were getting our digital journey out of the starting blocks.

We faced a challenge to encourage greater take-up of online services while, at the same time, improving the customer journey. The council did not have the staff to carry out the technical work needed to transform back-office functions so that residents could deal with the council online, from start to finish of their query or transaction.

“Testing, testing and testing again with users is absolutely vital if we are to make this process work for our customers

The money we received from the Productivity Experts programme paid for business analyst expertise from our customer portal provider, Jadu. It led the initial re-engineering work and trained our staff to develop their own skills in this area, to ensure future sustainability.

We benefited from making contacts with neighbouring councils – in particular Lichfield District Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council – which were embarking on the same path as us, with the same product.

The support of colleagues at these two authorities helped us trim many hundreds of hours off the procurement process, which, in turn, resulted in a dramatic speeding up of our own journey. We believe sharing in the Lichfield process secured a notional ‘officer time’ saving of at least £29,850.

An informal user group with partners has now been established, with the aim of sharing lessons learned on work already undertaken, as well as on future development commitments to ensure there is no duplication of effort.

We identified our biggest customer volume service area – recycling and waste – as the first area for attention.

We organised workshops with the service, which identified improvements to the online customer journey for all service requests, ranging from missed bin collections to ordering new containers to bulky waste collections.

We have learned that testing, testing and testing again with users is absolutely vital if we are to make this process work for our customers in a way that enables them to benefit from an improved service – and the council to benefit from efficiency savings.

The council has a work programme in place, which outlines the order in which the digital team is to work with services and develop their online presence.

In the current financial year, a savings target of £50,000 has been included in the council’s budget. We expect to save more than £500,000 over the coming four years as we introduce digital end-to-end services for a range of key areas.

For more information about this project, please email Phil Jones, Head of Communications, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, at phil.jones@newcastle-staffs.gov.uk


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