West Devon Borough Council and South Hams District Council have won a gold award at a public sector awards ceremony for a digital project which allowed them to speedily process grant claims to local businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The councils were the winners of the gold award for their Big Picture Transformation as part of the iESE Public Sector Transformation Awards.

This honoured an innovative technology project which helped the councils help people more quickly and saved them money into the bargain.

The project involved installing a piece of software called Liberty Create, produced by a company called Netcall. The software enables the councils to produce web forms, processes, and back office systems very quickly without the need for experienced software engineers to write detailed code. It proved a vital tool during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing the councils to quickly set up an online system for businesses to apply for emergency grants and process them far more efficiently.

When the first grants were announced on 1 May 2020, the councils’ digital team were able to build a system that was easy for staff and customers to use in just three days. The councils received around £500,000 of funding to help them set up the many Covid grants schemes. Thanks to this project, South Hams and West Devon only spent £100,000 on processing the grants, which meant that £400,000 of the funding could be used elsewhere to support the Covid response.

Cllr Chris Edmonds, West Devon Borough Council’s lead member for resource and performance, said: ‘The platform enabled the council to respond immediately when we were required to issue much needed grants to local businesses during the pandemic. There is no doubt that it saved us time and money, but also helped us to respond to the needs of the business community when they needed us most.’

WDBC has also been highly commended in the ‘Data Local Land Charges Awards for Excellence’. These national awards celebrate the work and achievements of local authority local land charge departments which carry out the land and property searches required when someone buys a home in England and Wales.

For this award, solicitors and licensed conveyancers around the country were asked to nominate and provide feedback on local authority local land charges teams. The WDBC team were rated highly by those who had had deailings with them.