...and un­for­tu­nately your coun­cil tax too

Sunday Sun - - News - By So­phie Dish­man ec.news@ncj­me­dia.co.uk

Reporter RO­BOTIC soft­ware has saved a cash-strapped coun­cil more than £1m and freed up hun­dreds of staff days as hu­man jobs are car­ried out by machines, it can to­day be re­vealed.

New­cas­tle City Coun­cil has freed up 574 staff days and saved a ‘non­cash­able’ £151,000 per year due to an in­vest­ment in the state-of-theart tech­nol­ogy.

The soft­ware, called SX, has been used by the coun­cil’s so­cial care and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy de­part­ments for seven years, equat­ing to roughly £1.057m in sav­ings.

So­cial work­ers use the soft­ware to record life events and other do other ad­min­is­tra­tive tasks, which the coun­cil says frees up time for staff to help fam­i­lies under the lo­cal au­thor­ity’s care.

The dig­i­tal move has also en­abled coun­cil chiefs to ‘stream­line ser­vices’ and au­to­mate busi­ness tasks, mean­ing so­cial care staff only have to in­put cer­tain types of data once and not mul­ti­ple times.

This frees up 314 staff days per year, equat­ing to sav­ings of £76,000 a year.

The prod­uct, pro­vided by York­shire-based NDL Soft­ware, has also been used in the au­thor­ity’s IT depart­ment to record ac­tiv­i­ties – free­ing up 260 work­ing days an­nu­ally, which saves the coun­cil a fur- ther £75,000 a year.

Coun Veron­ica Dunn, cab­i­net mem­ber for re­sources at New­cas­tle City Coun­cil, said: “The coun­cil has been work­ing with Ro­botic In­te­gra­tion Soft­ware across many dif­fer­ent ser­vices for the past seven years. Our IT depart­ment have been in­stru­men­tal in the suc­cess of how we’ve con­tin­ued to de­liver ser­vices us­ing dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy at a time when the coun­cil has faced significant cuts to its bud­get.”

Last week it emerged coun­cil spend­ing in New­cas­tle will be slashed fur­ther, with 40 work­ers sacked and res­i­dents forced to cough up more coun­cil tax.

Plan­ning the 2018/19 bud­get, New­cas­tle City Coun­cil said it needs to save £13.3m be­cause of on­go­ing gov­ern­ment grant cuts.

Coun­cil tax could be in­creased by 4.95% for the sec­ond year run­ning and the 40 job cuts will be sought through vol­un­tary re­dun­dan­cies. How­ever, none of the pro­pos­als have yet been for­mally agreed.

Com­ment­ing on the dis­cov­ery ro­botic soft­ware is sav­ing the coun­cil north of £1m, New­cas­tle Lib Dem coun­cil­lor Greg Stone said: “In the past there may have been more people em­ployed on ba­sic ad­min tasks ... but in the 21st century ef­fi­cient use of back-of­fice tech­nol­ogy can gen­er­ate sav­ings for im­por­tant front­line ser­vices.

“I think coun­cil tax­pay­ers would expect lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to be mak­ing ap­pro­pri­ate use of so­lu­tions like these to en­sure value for money.” Coun­cil­lor Veron­ica Dunn

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