City council projects make shortlist for awards

Fiona Myles demonstrates the scheme which modernises city libraries. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Fiona Myles demonstrates the scheme which modernises city libraries. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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FIVE projects which have helped save the city council more than £3 million are in the running for the top prize at this year’s Association of Public Service Excellence (ASPE) Service Awards.

The projects shortlisted for the awards are said to have transformed the way public services are being delivered in the city and are estimated to have saved the council more than £3.86m.

The five projects cover better fostering care for children, a campaign to help children transition from nursery to primary school, modernisation of the model for libraries in the city, homeworking and internal training for council employees.

The ASPE service awards have been around for more than 14 years and reward excellent innovation in public sector service delivery by local authorities across the UK.

Alice Robertson, an employee of Edinburgh City Council, worked with the “Lighthouse Keeper Joint Transition Project”, set up to help get children ready for the start of primary school.

“We noticed children coming from nursery to P1 weren’t achieving what they should be, so this initiative was set up as a fun challenge experience to help develop the children over the summer and get them ready for school,” she said.

So far 122 families have taken part in this initiative over the summer. Council leader Andrew Burns said that the initiatives have helped the council to achieve targets in critical service areas as well as significantly reduce costs for the council.

“Despite increasing pressure on budgets and resources, our front-line services continue to ensure that the people of Edinburgh are well cared for and looked after,” he said. “Our employees deserve this national recognition for the work they continue to put in to improve council services and deliver improved outcomes for Edinburgh residents.”

Jonathan Isaby of TaxpayerScotland said initiatives which helped ease pressure on the public purse were to be welcomed.

“Times are tight for families and councils alike, so any initiatives which the council can pursue to save taxpayers’ money are of course to be welcomed,” he said. “However, Edinburgh City Council should not get distracted from its efforts to save money and deliver services more efficiently by getting obsessed with seeking awards for what it has done.

“The best trophy it could seek would be the satisfaction of local residents paying less in council tax for quality services.”

The results for the awards will be announced on September 5.

The nominees

Foster Me Foster US (saved £800,000): Recruits more foster carers to look after children. 55 per cent increase in carers since 2012. 40 new foster cares regisitered in 2012. Target to register 50 new foster cares in 2013.

The Lighthouse Keeper Joint Transition Project: Helps children’s transition from nursery to primary school. Engages parents in their children’s learning. Six interactive learning challenges set for the children, developed around the stories of Ronda and David Armitage. Encourages families to make use of other local educational services, such as libraries.

Libraries – Unafraid of the future: Delivers a new modernised model for libraries in the city. Libraries more accessible via online and digital platforms and apps. Has increased awareness of libraries and has resulted in almost 300,000 more people paying pysical visits to libraries in Edinburgh. Initiative has won numerous awards including Customer Service Excellence CSE in 2012 and IIP Gold in 2013.

Workstyle: Encourages people to work from home to reduce costs and increase productivity. Forecasted to save £61,000 annually and increase productivity by 20 per cent. Requires less office space for employees and allows people to adjust work to fit around their home lives.

CECil: Edinburgh Council internal project which provides a 24-hour online training portal to council employees. Project has saved approximately £3 million. Reduces the amount of people who need to come in for training sessions amd eliminates the need for specialists to conduct the training. Training is the same for everyone and is more easily accesible.