Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP has announced the opening of a new fund for local authorities. The £7.5m ‘Local Digital Fund’ will award cash to councils seeking to improve their services through digital innovation and offer digital training and toolkits to help implement new projects.
The Local Digital Fund
According to GOV.UK, the fund will be open to applications from 24 September 2018. Councils will be able to make multiple submissions if they have several projects in the pipeline and each project will be eligible for a grant of up to £100,000.
Applications will happen in two stages. The first stage, which opens in September, involves an expression of interest. At this stage applicants may be encouraged to team up with authorities who have applied with similar ideas. The second stage will involve the submission of a full application and will begin on 15 October 2018.
While not every council will be in a position to apply to the new fund, it may still provide long-term benefits that filter through to authorities across the country. That’s because the grants are not only for projects which 'demonstrate they benefit local public services', but also for those with 'the potential to be rolled out more widely'. This means that, once each of these projects is up and running, central government is likely to try and spread the benefits further afield. So it may be wise for all authorities to keep an eye on developments as they emerge from this new initiative.
The timing of the fund launch is particularly important, as councils have recently warned that further cuts may be essential. County Councils Network expects its members to slash up to £900m from their budgets in order to balance the books, and predicts a funding shortfall of £1.5 billion by 2020. In this climate, it is positive to see a focus on fresh opportunities to improve the way services are delivered and increase fund management efficiency.
In addition to considering digital opportunities, councils may also wish to manage their cash flow more closely so that no money is wasted. For information about how Dukes can help with this, contact our centre manager today.