22nd June 2018
By Richard Whitehouse
Staff at Cornwall Council were wasting hundreds of working hours as they waited to log on to their computers due to their out-of-date computers which took 20 minutes to log into every day.
This was just one of the horror stories recounted by staff who explained why the council is now spending £20m on a Digital Cornwall project.
The three-year long upgrade of the council’s computer equipment and systems will also make it easier for the public to contact the council and access services.
It also aims to help people who are unable to access online services.
Mark Read, service director for customer access and digital, gave councillors a briefing about Digital Cornwall.
He explained that while the council was investing £20m the project would generate savings of £2.3m.
One of the aims was to make as many council services as possible available online. But he said they will also continue to provide traditional methods such as phone and face-to-face meetings.
The council would also be looking to simplify its website. At present residents have to register separately to use different services such as housing or benefits. Mr Read said that in future there would be one login for all services.
This will make it easier for residents and also help the council to have a more ’rounded view of customers’.
Explaining some of the ‘horror stories’ he said: “As we were using such old equipment log in times for staff in the mornings was 20 minutes a day on average. That is completely unacceptable and comes from significant under investment in IT.”
The council had replaced more than 2,000 pieces of equipment and was aiming to have replaced 3,000 by the end of the year.
Staff had already seen benefits and those with new equipment are now taking seconds to log in rather than minutes.
In future the council is aiming to ensure that no member of staff is using equipment which is more than five years old.
Councillors heard that 850 residents had attended digital inclusion training sessions which helped them to learn how to get online and use computers to access services. Follow-up surveys found that 90% of those people continued to use the online services.
The council has also provided all staff with access to Skype to hold meetings remotely which will cut down on travel and there is a target of reducing mileage claims by 20%.
Mr Read said: “£20m is a lot of money but a lot of that is spent on getting us up to where we need to be. We do need to show how we are going to make the best use of that investment.”
This article has been supplied to Cornwall Reports by the BBC Local Democracy Service