By Claire West
Councils saved £230 million last year by using the latest technology to manage services for the iGeneration and pensioners alike, a new report reveals.
Town halls are using mobile, web-mapping and satellite technology to make bin men more efficient, tell people waiting at bus stops where the next bus is and how long it will take to arrive, and keeping them informed about roadworks and planning applications.
Recent innovations also include iPhone applications which allow you to point your phone at a pub, restaurant or take-away and receive its hygiene rating, aps where you can send photographs of fly-tipping and vandalism so councils can deal with it quickly and a program allowing residents to buy a parking ticket before they leave the house.
LGA research found the use of such modern technology increased the productivity of councils by £230 million in 2009.
Councillor David Parsons, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Improvement Board, said:
“Whether it’s bin men working smarter, fewer phone calls to inquiry centres, freeing up staff from time-consuming checks or reducing parking ticket machine maintenance costs, making the most of modern technology and data sharing has seen huge cash savings across the country.
“This is money which can be ploughed into vital frontline services on which millions of people rely each year, and is yet another example of councils striving to be more efficient to make their stretched budgets go as far as possible.
“As well as financial savings, tapping into gadgetry has led to better communication with all members of society, young and old, and raised awareness of the services councils offer and how to get the most from them.
“It is estimated such technology and information sharing could potentially save councils up to £372 million by 2014/15. In this climate of strained budgets, councils must strive to keep reaching more residents and improving services ever more creatively, and look at more ways of working together to make these big savings.”
Underpinning the millions of savings is ‘location-based technology’ - councils linking residents’ locations with services they provide, whether it be meals on wheels, schools, busses, refuse collections or planning applications. This creates clear, accurate maps and provides shareable databases across council departments and between authorities. As residents become more able to access this information via computers and mobile phones, services can be delivered and issues resolved quicker than ever and the need for personal inquiries, paperwork and lengthy reports is vastly reduced.
The current batch of mobile aps are just the start with town halls across the country working on news ones to extend and improve services. Examples in the pipeline include an ap linking a mobile phone’s calendar with refuse collections to remind people on what days to put their recycling and waste bins out.