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A couple of weeks ago news broke that two councils were warned they could face government intervention unless they sell off their publicly owned assets such as towns halls, public toilets, leisure centres and libraries. Without change these councils and 25 others who are seen as “at risk” could end up in a situation like Slough and Croydon who have declared bankruptcy in recent months. 

These shocking headlines may come as no surprise given the scale of cuts councils have experienced over the last decade, but were there missed opportunities? And could things have been done differently that would have helped ease this financial pressure? 

We take a look at things through an AppyWay lens 🔍

Managing modern communities with 90’s tech

A huge problem found within councils up and down the country is the use of outdated technology that impedes progress and is costly to operate. A Cabinet Office report published in August, called Organising for Digital Delivery, warned that the government could end up spending between £13bn and £22bn over the next five years on obsolete systems. In fact at present, half of all government spending on computers is dedicated to keeping old systems going, the report found. 

Most of us would perish the thought of using a computer or piece of software at home that was 10, 15, 20 years out of date. One UK council however, is using a system for managing council housing that is 22 years old. The system, first implemented in 1999, has been declared end of life by the current supplier forcing the council to upgrade. This system change is now costing them a small fortune to upgrade it from its current state, upgrades that could have been done incrementally over the last 2 decades for a fraction of the cost. 

Using a system this old impacts a councils ability to operate in a productive and efficient manner. To put that one particular council’s efficiency challenges into perspective, in 1999 we were using the Nokia 3210 and the iPhone was still 8 years away from its launch. A 22 year old solution would most certainly prevent the council from driving meaningful change within their teams and across their community, and would inhibit them from seeking out opportunities to improve cash flow and drive down overall costs. 

It’s important to stress that this level system degradation is quite extreme. Many councils have had the foresight to upgrade and change their systems over the years and most are not in the position of this one particular council. It’s also worth noting that it would be fiscally irresponsible to update to the latest and greatest every year like some of us might do in our personal lives but a level of technology innovation does need to be maintained otherwise costs will skyrocket and efficiencies will plummet. 

If you’d like to read more about digital transformation and our case for making the change today then download our eBook Unlocking thriving towns through digital innovation.

Digitisation of kerbside assets

The issue of digital transformation is something we come across often here at AppyWay. Through our work with traffic and parking teams we have come to understand the challenges they face when using outdated systems and processes, in particular when managing their traffic orders. Obsolete systems are bogging them down, costing them in time and money. 

Currently many councils manage and store kerbside data in an analogue (paper) format. Managing the kerbside in this way, which is done via the legal mechanism of traffic orders, is incredibly laborious and is a barrier for councils looking to better understand their authority area and improve expenditure. Digitising a council’s assets such as its kerbside is key to understanding what a council has, how it’s being used, and how it can be leveraged better. 

With this crucial information sat in council filing cabinets across the country, un-digitised and un-standardised, councils are likely missing opportunities to access new revenue streams via their kerbside. 

Questions such as; could parking be altered to better match the changing behaviours of the community? And, are there opportunities to amend orders to capture untapped revenue from innovations such as micro-mobility? can be answered when councils have access to digitised, standardised traffic order data. 

Things are changing and we’re pleased to see that many councils are looking ahead, changing their systems and processes to drive down costs, create efficiencies within their teams and open up new revenue opportunities. We’re working with a number of councils to innovate their traffic order process through the AppyWay Traffic Suite, you can read about one such council, Dorset, here

Short term pain for long term gain

For councils, making the sorts of changes highlighted in this blog will of course come at a cost, but as discussed, leaving systems and processes to age beyond a certain point can be far more costly. 

Here at AppyWay we implore councils to take stock of what they have, look into how things could be done differently and buck the status quo. More often than not these short term costs or interruptions to service will be met with much, much larger long term benefits.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help drive efficiencies through digitised traffic orders, contact us here.