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A Really Useful day in Durham – part one

by on September 25, 2013

Last week we held another Really Useful event, this time in sunny Durham. This follows successful earlier events in Bristol and Huddersfield.

I’d like to thank our hosts and Local DirectGov and, of course, the guest LPA speakers for presenting and sharing the improvements they have made to their planning services and websites.

As always the focus of the Really Useful event was on encouraging a channel shift to new electronic ways of working for LPAs and customers.

Useful insight was again presented by Socitm in support of the event and how to strive for continuous improvement in technology and delivery of information.

Socitm’s Helen Williams outlined how planning services were often one of the poorest performing sections on council websites.

Even though some councils used identical back-end software, some performed much better than others simply by recognising the importance of building clear user journeys for customers.

She underlined the importance of focusing on customer needs when planning web pages.

Helen also gave us a comprehensive overview of Socitm’s annual Better Connected review. She added the provisional task list for ‘Better Connected 2014’ was on their website with a planning task to ‘Find out about a planning decision’. (You have been warned!)

More insight and advice for local authorities is available in the Socitm presentation.

We also received a presentation from our host Durham’s Allan Simpson on the introduction of a single unitary county council following the Local Government Review in 2009.

The project involved the consolidation the eight former districts into a single unitary.

They have recently awarded a contract for a new planning IT back-office system that will bring about further streamlined business procedures and processes across the planning department.

The new system will offer joined up services and use consolidate data from across the new unitary authority. The project identified the best elements from existing systems and build them into one process.

Learn more in Allan’s presentation.

You can read some great insights from Sunderland and Newcastle about paperless working in the second blog post on the Durham Really Useful event.

  1. Simon Evans permalink

    It’s great to hear the term “customer needs” being used in the context of local government because, as an end user, they often seem to be low on a Council’s priority list.

    One of the problems I have heard exists in this context from the planners themselves, is that there are often inadequate funds for improving websites, so delays in taking up such initiatives are inevitable.

    I have never quite understood why Council websites are so unnecessarily cluttered. You often have to negotiate through a whole series of pages, each with links to other pages, before you arrive at your destination. With commonly visited pages, such as planning policy or application search, there could be a shortcut from a landing page.

    I suspect the improvements we all expect and hope for will be made over time, just not as fast as we would all like.

  2. Xspace Architecture permalink


    Used the portal for several years, but now need a form – minor material amendment, where is it ?



    Xspace in Poole Dorset

    • Ian,
      there are a few form types that we can’t currently provide digitally but we do offer downloadable pdfs.
      They can be found here

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