Sprint Notes #39

Covering 25 November — 8 December 2021

Welcome back to our sprint notes! Read on to find out about our latest addition to the team and updates from round 5 successful projects.

News from the team

We have a new team member! Please join us in welcoming Tom Lowndes to the LDCU team.

Tom Lowndes

Job title: Collaboration Manager

What do you do? I support councils in their delivery of collaborative projects, products and services that address common digital challenges for local authorities. Key to this is working with local government stakeholders to adopt the Local Digital Declaration principles into their service delivery.

Contact email: tom@localdigital.gov.uk

Currently based: London

From: Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk originally

Background: I have been working in digital innovation within the built environment for the last 5 years in product management and delivery roles. Prior to that, I have worked as a Senior Project Manager on all sorts of crazy/wonderful projects including the London 2012 Olympics ceremonies.

Favourite meal: Anything with dauphinoise potatoes and I am very happy.

Things I do to relax: Cycling the many hills of the North Downs in the warmer months, but all year round I love playing football on a Tuesday night under the elevated section of the A40.

Ideal retirement plan: Cycling the many hills of the North Downs (and the Italian Alps) in the warmer months. I’d still play football under the A40, though!

We paired up with techUK to chat about local gov tech

Our Head of Local Digital, May-N Leow, spoke at techUK’s Future gazing event on 8 December.

May-N spoke about how open data infrastructure will be crucial in the future for local authorities and will allow citizens to have transparency on what is happening in their local area and allow suppliers to more easily build data driven services.

Speakers from Westminster City Council, Tussell and Starship Technologies were also part of the event.

Watch the event on techUK’s YouTube channel.

LDCU Council Spotlight — November 2021

This month we’re showcasing East Sussex and Data to Insight. Teal background with 4 overlapping yellow squares on the right. In the middle of these squares is ‘Council Spotlight’, written in white in the shape of a circle.

We’ve had great engagement with the Council Spotlight from Data to Insight and East Sussex County Council — thank you! It’s brilliant to be able to highlight what councils are doing to improve citizens’ lives.

Read November’s edition to find out how Children’s Services are being improved.

Be part of future editions of the Council Spotlight, you can nominate:

  • your council/team
  • a colleague
  • a digital project

Just fill out this quick form — it should take no more than 8 minutes.

Watch our welcome event

‘Welcome and Congratulations’ title slide on the left, with event attendees on the right hand side.

If you missed out on our Round 5 project welcome event on 24 November, you can watch it on our YouTube channel. You’ll find out more about each of the 9 successful projects, and hear from the Head of Local Digital, May-N Leow, and our Chief Digital Officer, Paul Maltby.

This edition of the sprint notes is the first time you’ll see what our new projects have been doing, so keep reading!

Funded Project Updates

Income Management System (IMS)

The team are currently looking for local authorities to help them test the LocalGov IMS. They will be testing the new system by focussing on:

  • the functional elements of the new IMS
  • ways of working within your organisation
  • working with other organisations using the IMS
  • expectations from a supplier of a managed service

They want to build a free, reusable, and open-source income management system, for the public good, that’s easy and affordable to maintain and enhance.

Tweet from @LocalGovIMS publicising their testing sessions, with a link to their blog post: https://localgovims.digital/beta/help-test-the-ims.html

The team are hosting 3 remote testing sessions:

  • Tuesday 11th January: 10:00am — 1:00pm
  • Wednesday 12th January: 10:00am — 1:00pm
  • Thursday 13th January: 10:00am — 1:00pm

If you have any questions about this project, or want to join one of the remote sessions, please contact hello@localgovims.digital.

A Community Grants Service

This project is led by Newcastle City Council. It is currently in the alpha phase and seeks to:

  • allow council officers to rapidly administer irregular grant payments
  • allow applicants to upload required information seamlessly, and only once

This project was inspired by challenges faced by the community grants service during the initial stages of the pandemic. They will be exploring how low code platforms can be used to rapidly develop a product that meets user needs.

A Task Management tool for Neighbourhood Services Staff Working in the Field

Colchester Borough Council initially developed a platform — ‘Responder 1’ — to address customer and council officer user needs.

Now, they have teamed up with Tendring District Council and Malden District Council and are working on ‘Responder 2’ during the beta phase.

The three councils want to develop a platform that allows residents to:

  • report issues in their local area to make sure it remains well maintained, clean and that the community can feel safe
  • know that a reported issue has been accurately logged
  • add a photo as supporting evidence when reporting an issue
  • have a speedy resolution to their issue

Meanwhile, the platform will allow council officers to:

  • have accurate and real-time incident information available to them
  • be able to update the status of the report whilst in the field to cut down on additional administration time

Children’s Social Care Demand

The team has been fixing some bugs in the front end of the tool following feedback from users. There are now over 60 authorities involved, which is a great example of collaboration.

The tool has been downloaded over 130 times by 90 unique users. Alistair Herbert, Data to Insight Manager, has been busy doing lots of demos to regional groups.

The teams’ vision for the product and service continues to be:

  • free to every local authority (not just those developing and testing)
  • accessible (data security concerns addressed)
  • a central resource to offer support

Data Exchange with VCS

The Camden team will soon be joined by a new member who will be responsible for User Experience Design and Delivery Management.

They will be tasked with building the user experience design of two products (Camden Insights Plus and Camden Food Mission Data Hub).

The Bedfordshire team is working on a strategic plan which will be launched next year and will focus on the key principle of ‘fairness’.

The Bedfordshire team is working on a strategic plan which will be launched next year and will focus on the key principle of ‘fairness’.

They have identified two workstreams:

  • a low-income dashboard
  • pathways that residents take when accessing advice

The team will now draft a business case so they can identify the resources required.

Digital Inclusion Toolkit

The team’s content designer created a ‘top 5 article’ list based on 10 months of data analytics. A ‘tone of voice and in-house style guide’ has also been created.

The team have now gone live with their new website and have made changes including their new homepage, better section navigation and clearer article titles. Read their new blog post to find out more about their changes.

Future Work Design

Now that this phase of the research has ended, the team has a sample of quantitative data to analyse and process.

The Risk Assessment Tool from Phase 1 is still on track to be launched by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in January 2022.

The HSE have set up a Webinar to introduce the tool, and several hundred people have already signed up. A web page is currently being created for the tool and will be ready in time for the launch.

The team also met with the Local Digital Collaboration Unit’s Economist, Philip, to discuss their theory of change and next steps. As they are coming to the end of their current phase of the project, the team will work on documenting and measuring their outputs.

Low-Code Patterns for Housing Management

The project, currently in its alpha phase, is led by London Borough of Redbridge.

The team is exploring common design platforms that will enable local authorities to develop flexible and user centered housing management solutions.

Going forward, the team will be focussing on refining user needs, and will meet with LDCU’ s economists to discuss their Theory of Change.

Offline Data Input Tool for Field Working Council Staff

This project, led by Birmingham City Council, is currently in its beta phase. Their aim is to develop a platform that enables:

  • field workers to access accurate information on service tickets (via a mobile device) so they can provide an appropriate response plan and estimate time frames for customers
  • managers of field workers to be able to know if any locations/sites have any known risks, so staff can be safeguarded

The team will be meeting with LDCU’s economists to discuss measurement and project milestones. The team has a development partner in place and will meet with their LDCU collaboration manager to discuss next steps this week.

Quality Data for Children in Care

On 8 December, the team launched a new tool to collaboratively develop a Python data cleaning tool.

Local Authority analysts can now use this tool to clean their current year’s dataset mid-year, rather than delaying until the Department for Education (DfE) makes their return site available.

This makes data quality work easier and improves the quality of data used for decision-making throughout the year.

The team received a very positive response from the 46 local authority attendees. They made it clear that without LDCU funding, the work may have not been possible.

People using the tool are being encouraged to give feedback using the feedback link at the top of the tool page. Read their latest blog post, which outlines the tool in more detail.

In the meantime, the team has also engaged with an apprentice scheme supported by the DfE. The course is tailored to analysts working with children’s services data and allows apprentices to study towards a Level 4 Data Analyst standard.

SAVVI (Scalable Approach to Vulnerability via Interoperability) and SENA (Societal Early Need Application)

After months of hard work, the SAVVI / SENA case study has been published! The case study will be of particular interest to:

  • project teams who want to find and support people in need
  • data and digital teams who want to handle and share data to a reusable standard
  • information governance team’s performance

Special Education Needs Top-up Funding Service

Amy, the team’s project lead, confirmed that they are currently in Sprint 8, and that the project is about halfway through its beta phase.

The aim of the project is to develop a tool which can address the ‘inconsistent and inefficient manual assessment and funding application process’.

At the moment, they are aiming to get the tool tested by schools in January 2022. The team have been testing provisions in the tool and the team developer is currently researching GitHub as a way to share the code.

Thanks for reading! For the daily download on all things #LocalDigital, be sure to follow us on Twitter.




Supporting the national #LocalDigital movement and championing #FixThePlumbing across #localgov.

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The Local Digital Collaboration Unit is funded by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities. Read more about our work: https://www.localdigital.gov

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