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Digital champions

Following the 37 submitted Future Fund bids from 40 councils (three joint bids) to win O2’s investment of either £125,000, £75,000 or £50,000 of our technology and consultancy investment to help bring their digital idea to life, the judging process has run its course and the three winners have been announced.

The judging panel: Emma Maier (LGC), Simon Parker (NLGN), Michael Coughlin (LGA), Ben Dowd (O2) and myself, shortlisted the entries to six. These made their final pitches to judges on 24 July.

In previous columns I’ve written about the breadth of ideas presented, with bid submissions designed to help join up the council, citizens or community, and ultimately help drive real change for local government.

Shortlisting was not easy. However, the judges agreed on the following: Babergh and Mid Suffolk DCs, with their ‘everyone by default’ proposal which aimed to tackle digital exclusion; Leeds City Council, which had focused on universal credit; Luton BC, which was looking to redesign the customer experience; Merthyr Tydfil CBC and the Vale of Glamorgan Council, with a joint bid to help small and medium enterprises to tender and win more local public sector business; Reading BC, which had decided to build an app to help address the Neet [not in education, employment or training] issue, and finally Staffordshire CC, which had taken an interesting stance on redesigning its library service.

There were many other ideas that were very credible, but the six chosen had all written comprehensive bids that addressed the judging criteria. Each proposal took a common local government issue that would have stood as a beacon of innovation if successful.

On judging day it was clear that the shortlisted councils had prepared thoroughly and sent a delegation of senior officers to make the case. After an intense day, Reading, Merthyr Tydfil and the Vale of Glamorgan, and Luton emerged as the winners in first, second and third places respectively.

After their diligence in submitting compelling bids, now the challenge truly begins as we start to work with these innovating councils to make their projects come to life.

My commitment to the sector in devising the Future Fund was to find and share innovation. This continues, with an event on 4 October open to local government officers where I will be sharing the overall findings and progress of the winners to date.

Thanks to 40 innovating councils, there is much to share and celebrate.

Neil Prior, head of local government future forum, O2

Email: neil.prior@O2.com Twitter: @NeilPrior_O2UK

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The Future Fund from O2 offered councils a chance to win up to £125,000 of consultancy, technology and support to kickstart a local transformation project to improve productivity or service quality. LGC is a media partner. O2.co.uk/FutureFund