Balancing act: juggling citizens with smart cloud tech

27th February 2023

Can councils navigate through tough times better?

Managing Director, Luke Norfolk explores how local authorities can work smarter with accurate, modern, GovTech solutions whilst faced with challenges.

With varying inflation, a fragile economy, and a government battling with the cost-of-living crisis, 2023 looks set to be another difficult year for local authorities across the UK.

‘Doing more with less’ will, once again be the mantra. However, this is going to be harder and riskier than it sounds. ‘Heating versus eating’ is placing a huge strain on families and individuals, many of whom are facing financial difficulties and having to seek help for the first time.

For local authorities, this means stretching already tight (or non-existent) budgets and using the limited resources at their disposal in the most efficient way possible. This is where smart cloud technology, better automation and improved data management can make a real difference. The right tools to leverage this data will also be critical.

Heating homes safely and affordably this winter

With energy bills skyrocketing, more people are looking for alternatives to heat their homes. The national charity Electrical Safety First found that around eight per cent of the population (4.3 million) are shunning central heating in favour of electrical heaters. Councils must safeguard citizens, so they know how to use electric heaters and other alternative forms of heating safely and ensure that they only buy from reputable sellers.

Appliance safety is just one of the challenges facing local community safety officers this winter; they will of course face many more. Armed with high-quality data, supported by the right digital tools, Chief Sustainability Officers can make the best decisions in the interests of thousands of people. Here, cloud technology has a crucial role to play. The software can save vital time and resources by automating and simplifying processes, accelerating response times and, crucially, detecting similar cases ensuring that officers can proactively intervene.

Staying ahead of criminals

Cybercrime is an increasingly serious threat for virtually every business, public body and private citizen. Online fraud, data breaches and hacking are an almost daily feature in our national press. With rising costs, citizens must be ever more vigilant of scams. During the FIFA World Cup, Trading Standards warned citizens to keep an eye out for postal and online lottery scams incorrectly associated with the event. These scams are often part of international organised crime, aiming to trick people into sending money.

So, Councils have their work cut out. They need to be able to tackle unfair trading practices from anywhere, at any time. Smart tech can help by setting up alerts to prompt precaution and get an automated overview of records associated with each case to take timely action – and keep citizens safe. St Helens Borough Council has experienced this first hand and has been able to reduce reliance on its in-house IT to support more agile working. “Ultimately, it will allow our customers to interact with us in the easiest way possible, with the quickest resolution to queries – and help us to focus on those areas which are most important to local people”.

At Civica we continue to take advantage of advances in cyber-security to develop cutting-edge, sophisticated document checks and services that allow councils to assure citizens that trustworthy security controls are in place – guaranteeing the protection needed.

Public service organisations now need to focus on supporting those most vulnerable, while also combating their own rising costs and reducing budgets. Of course, we know it’s not sustainable or possible to continuously do more with less, so greater adaptability and more technology-enabled innovation will be essential to ‘survive’.

More can be done with what is available, whether through better use of assistive technologies or modernising existing applications. Our local authorities will need to increase self-service, reduce red tape, and improve data sharing and interoperability to drive better insight and faster actions. There’s no doubt that we’re not out of these challenging times but with the right tools we can make smarter, data driven decisions to protect citizens both today and tomorrow.

Our Perspectives* series explores GovTech trends and the potential for emerging technologies for the sector. Click here to read the full series.