£800k, a myopic token gesture for digital localgov

Written by Lauren Gill

Last month in an exclusive with The MJ, Local Government Minister Simon Clarke MP announced the 11 projects allocated a share of £800k of new funding for digital solutions to common coronavirus problems announced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) Local Government Fund.

At first glance, it may seem an impressive roll call of new tech initiatives. But when you take a step back, £800k is frankly a drop in the ocean. Split 11 ways it amounts to just over £70k for each scheme.

Not a lot when you consider the breadth of critical services councils offer to citizens – a scope which is only set to increase now that they will also take on extra Covid-19 responsibilities, as central government’s strategy shifts to local lockdowns.

At Mantis we are working with some of the public sector tech companies at the forefront of innovation. They develop solutions which not only drive operational efficiency, but crucially improve the lives of citizens.

Like Servelec’s Mosaic Mobilise offering, for example, which facilitates better interaction with social care teams enabling them to provide support to the most vulnerable – it is clear that tech can make a massive difference.

We’re all for investment – but when so much of the answer to the challenges our local authorities face clearly lies in digital, surely it should be more?

While investing in new tech involves an initial outlay, it’s about seeing the bigger picture. Having the foresight to allocate the funds to better tech inevitably means you reap the rewards down the line.

Councils up and down the country were already under huge financial strain – and the gap is even bigger in the wake of the pandemic. We are watching with bated breath to see whether further funding will be forthcoming from the Treasury.

In the meantime – tech has to be at the heart of local government strategy and funded as such if it is to be up to the job of meeting citizen expectations and supporting society’s most vulnerable.

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