Necessity is the mother of invention. Technology and brilliant minds have allowed us to adapt and innovate, and this extends to the councils that are serving our communities in the midst of the pandemic. Councils have delivered huge and necessary changes using digital technology in just a few months.
I have seen first-hand, councillors and staff rapidly bringing in new schemes to support the most vulnerable in our society. Harnessing existing relationships with community groups and charities, and building on relationships with local hotels, to give rough sleepers shelter from the storm.
Setting up new local support schemes from scratch, to ensure food and essential supplies get to those people who have been staying home to shield from illness.
Above all, I have heard stories of dedication from council staff and councillors determined to help and support their residents. I know councillors and staff share my determination to capitalise on this work and use everything we have learned to improve efficiency and make life better for residents.
This cements the long-term trend that councils embracing digital technology has huge potential to deliver better, smarter services and simultaneously save taxpayers’ money, while proper investment in the right infrastructure can make cybersecurity stronger too.
This Government will work to support councils with this major, modernising shift. That’s why we’re giving a total of £800,000 to council projects that are using technology to help people through this coronavirus pandemic. Eleven projects led by councils across England will receive grants of up to £80,000 for innovative projects to help residents. One project that combines proposals will receive £120,000.
This follows more than £4.3bn we’ve provided for councils’ pressures during the coronavirus pandemic, alongside comprehensive measures addressing loss of income from things like museums and car parks closing across the country.
It’s two years since we launched the Local Digital Declaration with a shared ambition to embrace digital technology in councils and public bodies across the country. It’s been a great success, and after launching with 40 signatories it now boasts more than 220. It’s fostered a bustling scene of digital creativity – ready to tackle our biggest challenges.
Our mission as a government to level up every part of our economy has clearly never been so great. And to support this effort, it is important that the government and councils work together to innovate and tackle these challenges head on.
Thank you to all councils, for the work they have done and continue to do. And let’s seize this moment of necessity to drive forward innovation for the benefit of all.
Simon Clarke is local government minister