Gold For South Hams and West Devon
South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council have won Gold at the iESE Public Sector Transformation Awards 2022.
iESE is an organisation created by local authorities as a shared resource to bring transformation and service improvements to local authorities across the UK.
This year at iESE's annual award ceremony, which is judged by an international team and compared to public sector initiatives around the world, South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council were the winners of the Gold award for their Big Picture Transformation.
This award was for a specific innovative technology project which the Councils had undertaken. The project created not just financial savings for the Councils, but has also enabled the Councils to respond to the needs of the customer like never before.
The project involved installing a piece of software, called Liberty Create, produced by a company called Netcall. The software enables the Councils to produce web forms, processes, and back office systems very quickly without the need for experienced software engineers to write detailed code.
For example, during the pandemic, when the Councils had to quickly set up an online system for businesses to apply for emergency grants, this was used to process them with a third of the effort it would have needed previously.
When the first grants were announced on 1 May 2020, the Councils' digital team were able to build a system that was easy for staff and customers to use in just three days.
The Councils received around £500, 000 of funding to help them set up the many COVID grants schemes. Thanks to the Liberty Create software and the team's innovative approach, South Hams and West Devon only spent £100,000 on processing the grants, which meant that £400,000 of the funding could be used elsewhere to support the COVID response.
Cllr Chris Edmonds, West Devon Borough Councils Lead Member for Resource and Performance said: "The platform enabled the Council to respond immediately when we were required to issue much needed grants to local businesses during the pandemic. There is no doubt that it saved us time and money, but also helped us to respond to the needs of the business community when they needed us most.
"Liberty Create underpins our digital ambitions to deliver more services entirely electronically and we are really impressed with the improvements we have made."
Cllr Nicky Hopwood, South Hams District Council's Executive Member for Delivering Council Services said: "One of the reasons that this project was such a success is because the project team engaged the whole Council, all of the staff and elected members in this project from day one. We were involved in the procurement of the new system and it was important to the project team to take the staff on the journey with them once they began rolling it out across all service areas.
"Other Councils are now using this software, but I am proud that we were one of the first to really capitalise on its potential with more benefits to come. This is down to the drive of our digital project team. Well done - this is an excellent example of our digital team leading the way."
In total the Councils' has now built over 90 processes within the Liberty Create platform, which collectively have been started over 100,000 times. Over 75% of customers can self-serve and over 25,000 requests have been handled through the new software in the last year rather than over the phone.
This includes interactions such as reporting Fly-tipping, general enquiries, paying for parking permits, applying for household support and temporary event notices.
Council staff who are using the new system have also expressed how it is making their work easier as well, they said :
"The old system was very frustrating to use. Working smart was hard and being efficient at my tasks was difficult. That's all changed now" "I really like that I can see the whole email trail and respond to this. It helps me to do my work" and "It's so easy to learn how to use it as much of it is intuitive and I don't have to refer to manuals"
Jim Davis, the Council's Customer Improvement Manager said: "It is lovely to have our achievements' recognised, but for me this is just the beginning of what is possible. We have big plans for the future to do some truly unique work to benefit our residents. With the support of our elected members we will continue to strive for better digital connectivity with our customers, so that we can continue to improve how we work and improve the services we provide."
There is no doubt that the Liberty Create software is making communication between the Council and the customer much smoother, but it also enables the Council to get instant feedback and deal with issues as they arise.
So far about 75% of the customers who have used the new system have said that they would give the process 4 or 5 stars.
However, where the Council receives negative feedback the team are able to instantly investigate, learn from the comments and make adjustments. Improving the system is constant, and feedback enables the team to act quickly to issues based on the evidence that they have received from the customer.
Moving forward the project team are now looking to expand the project and use the system in other areas of council work.
The Councils' digital ambition is that staff can concentrate on their role, delivering good quality services to customers, unhindered by broken processes, outdated or slow technology. This will provide customers with much better service, enabling those who can self-serve through the website to do so quickly and effectively. By securing significant investment in innovation, skills, research and development. In turn this will release staff to concentrate on helping those who are less digitally able.