Delivering our Future Fund promises

Neil Prior, Head of Local Government Futures Forum, Telefónica UK

We all use apps and mobile technology, and expect instant access to information in our daily lives. So it’s in response to this that we believe councils could be transforming by embracing new technologies and better engaging with citizens. But with local government dealing with 28% budget cuts and more to come, it’s a difficult time to invest in technology and innovation.

So we came up with the idea of the Local Government Future Fund. It’s an initiative to help forward-thinking councils get to grips with new methods of engaging their employees, citizens and communities. (If you prefer video you can watch me talking about it here.)

The Future Fund provided a pot of £250,000 to be shared between three successful local authorities to spend on O2’s time, technology and expertise. The councils just needed to pitch an idea based on the innovative use of technology to build closer citizen engagement.

Successful bidders

We received 37 bids from 40 councils (including three joint bids) – that’s almost 10% of local authorities – an astonishing figure. We selected the three successful councils because their ideas were achievable, would get the right level of support, and could work at a national level.

Reading Borough Council received £125,000 of funding to help people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs) back into employment. We’re working with Reading council to develop an app and portal to help bring together young people who are unemployed with local businesses that are recruiting. And by involving NEETs in the development process, we’re making sure we create a solution that will work for them. Reading Council is now one of our Think Big youth partners and continuing to inspire young people.

Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council and the Vale of Glamorgan Council received £75,000 of funding to help small business tender for public sector contracts. Public sector projects provide an opportunity for many small businesses, but tendering can be a complex process. We’ve planned an event for January 2013 to publicise the initiative, and are developing an app that will act as a library for public sector tender opportunities. Support will also be provided to help small businesses navigate the public sector bid process.

Luton Borough Council received £50,000 of funding to improve the way citizens access information, support and guidance. Currently this information is held in a number of different places, making it a difficult customer journey, so we’re working with the council to develop a better experience for its citizens who need to access help and information quickly and easily. Workshops with the council to develop the new citizen experience are helping to build the business case for it. With a compelling business case, they’ll be better placed to gain the political support needed to simplify today’s very complex customer journey.

Going forward

We’re continuing to work with the successful councils to help them achieve their goals. The political support we’ve gained and the progress we’ve made in 2012 alone is staggering, and we want to continue this in 2013. So next year we’ll be running more events and workshops, to share the insights we’ve made this year with other local authorities around the country, so councils and citizens everywhere get better experiences.

Find out more at o2.co.uk/enterprise/products-and-services/other-business-areas/local-government or call Matt Worth on 01235 433 507.

If you want the full detail about 2012’s Local Government Future Fund initiative you can download our report, Visible Value, here