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MODERNISING GOVERNMENT FUND PROMOTES EFFICIENCY AND JOINED UP WORKING: MCCONNELL

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The Scottish executive's£25m modernising government fund has proved a major success in promoting 'joined up' gover...
The Scottish executive's£25m modernising government fund has proved a major success in promoting 'joined up' government between departments and agencies and 'investing to save' by creating efficiencies within public organisations that will release resources for front line services, finance minister Jack McConnell has announced.

The number and quality of applications for the fund is so high that ministers have given initial approval to 46 projects - almost half the bids submitted.

Organisations are now being asked to work up their proposals by the autumn when those who have been successful in their bid for a share of the£25m will be announced.

A total of 104 indicative bids were received by the Scottish executive and the minister said he was delighted with the response. Bids have come from all parts of the public sector and from all areas of Scotland.

Mr McConnell said: 'The modernising government fund was established to provide joined-up government that puts the needs of the citizen first and, by investing£25m, to create savings that can in turn release more resources for front line services.

'I have been extremely impressed by both the number and the overall quality of the bids for the fund. Many of the bids demonstrate both an innovative use of new technology and a willingness for public organisations to join together to provide services that are more convenient for the public.

'Competition for the available resources has therefore been stiff. I am very encouraged that public sector bodies have grasped the opportunity to accelerate change and improvement in the services they provide to the public.

'We want to support as many projects as we possibly can. So we have decided to approve an extensive list of 46 bids to go through to the next round. This is considerably more than we expected to approve but we want to maximise the changes that this funding can support.

'The total potential cost to the Fund from these 46 projects is higher than the total funding available. But we expect in all cases the amount of money sought from the fund to come down significantly, as the bidders identify further savings opportunities for combining bids, involving more partners and releasing more savings.

'And where bids have looked for support in excess of£2m we have decided to set a cap of£2m on what the fund will contribute. This will be a valuable discipline in itself; and will allow us to spread the avilable resources as widely as possible.

'By establishing this fund we are investing in the public sector in order that it can identify more efficient ways of working and therefore achieve savings. The released savings will thus enhance front line services and help us deliver modern government at local and national level that is fit for the needs of Scotland in the 21st century.'

BACKGROUND

1. Finance minister Jack McConnell, who also has responsibility for modernising government, announced the estbalishment of the modernising government fundin the Scottish parliament on February 23, 2000.

2. The resources are to be used to support new and innovative projects from across the public sector including those which harness new technology and promote more joined up working. Priority is being given to those projects which involve the delivery of services or policies from more than one public sector body.

3. Applications were open to any public sector body in Scotland either individually, in partnership with other public sector bodies or in partnership with the private or voluntary sectors.

4. The Fund totals£25m spread over two years. Indicative bids had to be submitted by 15 May 2000 and those included on the long list announced today have to submit fully worked up bids by 29 September 2000.

5. Examples of the projects included are:

- West Lothian Council. Further development of a website to streamline service delivery for 13 public sector agencies (West Lothian Council, West Lothian healthcare, Scottish Homes, Wqest Lothian Chamber of Commerce, Benefits Agency, Voluntary Action, Lothian and Borders Police, West Lothian College, Association of Community Councils, Emplyment Services, Lothian Health, LEEL, East of Scotland Water and Oracle).

The scheme builds on West Lothian Connected, the first centre of its kind in Britain, which is based in the Almondvale Shopping Centre in Livingston and offers citizens access to the services of the Benefits Agency, Employment Service, NHS in West Lothian, Inland Revenue and West Lothian Council.

- Aberdeen City Council. Further development of smartcard technology. This builds on a pilot project in two Aberdeen schools which allows pupils to purchase school meals and access library, sport and leisure facilities., The council is planning to extend the scheme to all citizens for use on public transport, parking meters and, eventually, for ordinary shopping.

- Scottish executive rural affairs department. Cutting red tape for farmers by developing an electronic handling system for grant and subsidy claims.

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