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A new councillor's role made easier
NEW councillor Nicole Corcoran was at her wits' end. She had been delighted to win
her seat, but was drowning in administration until she discovered e-Casework.
"The sheer number and diversity of cases that came my way was one thing but
following up every new development and additional piece of information for each one
was becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible," she said.
"I was elated when I was elected, and set out with energy and drive to be the best
councillor in my Borough."
Nicole, 54, prided herself on her organisational skills, but with new and different
kinds of data being fired at her from all directions, even she found it hard to stay on
e-Casework was her salvation.
She had tried several other methods, including a combination of BlackBerry and e-
book applications, which she found complicated and not very user-friendly.
"I always seemed to be tapping in information and co-ordinating. It took up too much
time and - if I didn't spend hours a day inputting, it didn't work and sometimes made
matters worse," she said.
When she did her weekly 'surgery' with another councillor, it also became obvious she
was ill-informed about local views and community politics.
Councillor Corcoran realised both she and her constituents would benefit if she had
more time to attend local functions and activities, mix with her community and get to
know their views on local issues.
"I mentioned this to my colleague and he told me about e-Casework and advised me
to give it a trial. I gave Rob List a call and have never looked back.
"From the outset I was delighted and amazed with how easy and efficient it was. It cut
my administration time down by half!"
"It was like having my own private secretary to update me and send out letters and
queries. It is much easier to use than other applications and software because it is
"e-Casework freed me up to do much more, as well as ensure I kept on top of
everything. In fact, I was always one stop ahead of developments, because it
automatically updates all the information available on each case, and keeps it in order
in one place."
It is simple and straight forward to use - and so fast. Because it is already
programmed to prioritise, e-Casework frees me from recording unnecessary clutter.
"People are impressed at how readily I can access information for them and update
them on any progress made on their particular query or field of interest."
"I know that I would never be able to operate to optimum efficiency as a councillor if
it weren't for e-Casework. Every councillor should have it!"
If you'd like to know more about e-Casework, and how it can help in your local authority, just email support@e-Casework.org.
Ever increasing workload for councillors and officers
Every councillor dreads the consequences of being so snowed under with work, they either run out of time, or even forget, to chase up an important case.
Similarly, every officer knows the humiliation of realising they have omitted to investigate the very next item coming up on the agenda.
We’re all human, and as life for councillors and officers gets busier and busier, if such blunders haven’t yet happened, sooner or later they will – unless, that is, you get help from e-casework software.
Take Councillor Mitch Sontag for example. He never misses a beat since he signed up to e-casework. He says it does the work for you.
We wouldn’t go as far as to claim that, but Councillor Sontag is smitten. He said, “All I have to do is enter the name of the person and the issue they are inquiring about.
“For example, the other day a lady phoned to complain about a terrible smell in her street and wondered if anyone else had told the council about it.”
“I simply typed ‘Selby Street’ in to e-casework, and every enquiry the council had logged under that street came up. I was able to tell her that two other people had phoned in about it already.
“I then added her name and complaint to the list and automatically sent an e-mail to the officer who had been assigned to deal with the matter.”
From the officer’s point of view, everything about e-casework comes up smelling of roses too, because once a case name is typed into the system, it automatically cross-refers information and won’t let it be forgotten or fall by the wayside – no matter how busy a person is.
The officer at the council dealing with the Selby Street smell was Environmental Health officer, Rosemary Cranston.
She too had the benefit of e-casework, and received the new complaint from Councillor Sontag immediately.
This prompted a reply from her, to inform Councillor Sontag of exactly what action she was taking. He in turn was able to tell the complainant and everyone was happy – and even happier when the cause of the smell was identified and dealt with in double quick time.
Miss Cranston said: “The e-casework software has enabled our local authority to not only keep its head above water in the current climate of immense change and high workload, it has helped us to improve vastly on our efficiency rate.”
It sends off templated letters to chosen people, copies all relevant people in on responses and follows everything through until the case is resolved.
Another brilliant side to e-casework software is that it even sends e-mails to people involved who don’t have e-Casework. And that’s magic!
The Government wants local authorities and communities to pull together using new technology in the form of computers.
This is what Councillor Sontag says: “E-casework helps us to do exactly that. It is brilliant, and so easy to use. Every council should install it. If they did, the country would be back on its feet in no time.”
If you'd like to know more about e-Casework, and how it can help in your local authority, just email support@e-Casework.org.
Managing a heavy work-load
WHEN Councillor Eve Adams was faced with a barrage of phone calls and e-mails from angry residents, demanding action over night-time noises from a club after hours, the issue could easily have caused her sleepless nights as well as the residents!
Trying to log everyone’s details and follow up their individual points with appropriate officers was her initial task.
Then, when this was done, keeping up with events with the night club as they were processed through bureaucratic mill, then informing all 73 complainants what was happening with its progress over the weeks could have been a mammoth task.
Placed alongside Councillor Adams’ other 61 different cases about housing problems to rights of way on her books, some may think the task of this particular councillor a tall order – a demanding and tiring chore.
But to Councillor Adams her heavy workload was no problem. She was using e-casework software. Once she had logged in everyone’s names and addresses and noted the issue of complaint, e-casework did the rest for her!
It sends off templated letters to her chosen council officers, copies all relevant people in on responses and follows everything through until the case is resolved, when she is able to send out the satisfactory result to everyone, with a personal note from her.
“This really is council efficiency at its zenith - and is a huge money-saving investment at local level, just what the government requires,” says Councillor Adams.
“e-casework can even cross-refer to other complaints received in the past over similar issues, which is handy to put before a council meeting when trying to form a case against a noisy night club.
When people ask me how a particular issue is progressing, they don’t have to wait for me to chase it up and then let them know, I can just press a few buttons, bring up all the latest information and tell them right then and there.”
“I don’t have to rely on my memory and it’s also a failsafe way of ensuring that every case is seen through to completion – and nothing slips through the net. Every councillor should have e-casework – and every officer too for that matter.”
Helping councillors to take on more local issues and see them through more efficiently
An easy-to-use, custom-built communication system for councillors called e-Casework, can make you and your council more efficient, thus saving many thousands of pounds.
For example, Councillor Joe Bladon of Lambeth Borough Council (not his real name) uses e-Casework. It has helped him keep track of clients and cases, as well as reach swifter resolution for all issues.
Questions and cases brought to him by his constituents never slip through the net or ‘get lost’ in paperwork or bureaucracy - because the automatic prompts on his e-Casework installation remind all concerned what needs to be done to push the case forward.
Coun Bladon sends out personalised letters with the touch of a few buttons, or letters to whole groups of people. He can do this any time, even when he is on the train or bus, and he always knows where to find everything concerning each and every case, no matter how many people ring him or stop him in the street.
“Hey Joe,” a shopkeeper might ask, “What happened about that piece of land I was asking about. Any further forward with it?”
“Just a second, I’ll check,” says Councillor Bladon, and quickly taps in the shopkeeper’s name. Up comes all the information he needs regarding the progress of the question about the land he sent via e-Casework to another councillor and a planning officer, He can see all the updates to the case too, which come to him automatically through the e-Casework system.
Councillor Bladon can tell the shopkeeper within a few minutes, “Ah yes, the planning officer received my letter and is putting the query to the committee next Wednesday. I will let you know the outcome.”
The shopkeeper is satisfied and impressed, Councillor Bladon is happy that he is keeping on top of his heavy caseload and is also safe in the knowledge that even if he cannot attend the planning committee, the result will be sent to him via e-Casework.
The council officers appreciate the councillors are much more efficient at keeping tabs on every case using e-Casework, and therefore issues are resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible, thus saving time and money.
So everyone is happy and everyone gets a better service for less. In fact, the cost to the whole local authority is minimal compared to the savings to the public sector – and the more members who use e-Casework, the more the savings.
e-Casework is the answer to the new Government’s prayers, and to those of every councillor too.
Why not get in touch with Rob List for a free demonstration at rob.list@e-Casework.org?
Imagine – your whole council now has the opportunity to be more efficient for less! Just what the Government ordered.
A day in the life of a Councillor by Cllr John Kazantzis, LB Lambeth
My day starts as usual with walking my son to school. I resist the temptation to check my emails on my Blackberry on the way and instead test my son on his spellings. In the playground I bump into a councillor colleague whose 2 daughters go to the same school and we chat about the agenda for the next cabinet meeting. There’s no getting away from council work!
The working day proper starts, as it does most mornings, with doing casework. As a cabinet member in a busy inner-London Borough I’m a full-time councillor and I need to manage my casework effectively. To do this I use e-Casework, a system we had especially commissioned in Lambeth and is now being used in other Local Authorities, to efficiently process and administer councillors’ sometimes huge caseloads. Once I’ve logged on to e-Casework I’m greeted with a homepage that lists all my outstanding cases. Most of these like the pothole in Glenister Park Road and a resident’s new wheelie bin, have now successfully been resolved so I close the cases. A couple though, like a particularly thorny planning issue are more than a week overdue so at the single click of a button I fire off chaser emails to the relevant officers concerned.
It’s then off to my first meeting of the day with the Head of Employment, Learning and Skills to discuss, amongst other things, the opening of a new Employment Training Hub in the heart of one of our most deprived wards in Brixton. After the meeting I check my phone messages to find a constituent has called leaving her name and address but no phone number. I quickly check e-Casework and fortunately find I did some work for her a few years ago and I have a contact number on record.
Before my next meeting I enter all the casework generated from last Saturday’s walkabout in Streatham Vale. I do a regular monthly walkabout with the local residents’ association in the Vale, each time focusing on the environmental issues in 3 or 4 different streets. I have separate cases for every street in the Vale and e-Casework allows me to easily keep track of all the issues I have raised on previous walkabouts in a particular street and tells me which roads we haven’t inspected for some time and could perhaps need some attention.
At 3.30pm I collect my son from school. I’m at home then until 6pm when my evening meetings start and although I can and do work a lot from home I try not to for these few hours because I work most evenings and weekends so this can be the only time I get to spend with my children. I give my son a game of football on the Wii (sometimes we play real football in the park if I’m feeling energetic!) and help my 14 year old daughter with her homework.
My first evening meeting is the inaugural gathering of Lambeth’s new Enterprise Board which I chair. We have just interviewed and appointed new members from local businesses both large and small, to an expanded Board and this is their first opportunity to basically brainstorm ideas in which we can all work together to help mitigate the worst effects of the recession.
I then make a mad dash from the Town Hall to Streatham as I’m late for a meeting of the Streatham Community Forum Steering Group. There follows some heated exchanges with opposition councillors over some bureaucratic nonsense which quite frankly residents would have no interest in, but it all ends amicably. I then catch the tail end of a Party meeting which fortunately is in the same building. I get home again at 11pm, not uncommon and want to unwind with a bit of TV. As usual though there’s nothing much on at this time of night and I forgot to set the video, I do however find plenty of choice on the BBC iPlayer – modern technology is a wonderful thing!
New web-based support for councillors' leadership role
The London Borough of Lambeth has launched a new web-based system, E-Casework, to assist councillors in their enhanced community leadership role spelt out in the recent Local Government White Paper and Bill. It will also support them in managing contacts from constituents.
Both the recent Local Government White Paper and the Bill currently going through Parliament see an increased role for frontline ward councillors. This changing emphasis comes together with the traditional role of taking up cases for and dealing with enquiries from constituents.
Lambeth is in the middle of developing support for councillors in this changing role as well as supporting them in carrying out their more traditional role assisting their constituents with their concerns. A key part of this support is a new web based system called e-Caseworker.
The system allows the Councillor to develop a database of organisations within their ward, sorted by keyword and then to track work carried out with each organisation. Information on organisations can be shared with ward Councillor colleagues as well as across the Council.
When a constituent rings up a Councillor to complain that their bin has not been emptied, a car is dumped outside their house or to ask what they are going to do to improve the level of recycling, the Councillor simply emails the query to e-Casework, identifying the department responsible for the matter and it is automatically entered into the council’s enquiry system.
Every time a council officer takes action on the matter an email is sent to the Councillor informing them on progress until the matter is resolved. When the Councillor receives this final notification, they then either close the matter or identify something they want further action on which goes back to the council officer for further action.
E-Casework enables Councillors to store information more efficiently and improves the service they provide to the public. It will also highlight when there are a number of people in a similar area having the same problem – which could suggest there is a more serious underlying problem to be addressed.
This brand new case management system was designed following extensive cross party work with Councillors, caseworkers and council officers working on members’ enquiries.
Deputy Leader of Lambeth Council, Councillor Jackie Meldrum said, “I welcome this development, which will help councillors with our work on behalf of the people we represent and improve the support provided to the people of Lambeth by their elected representatives.”
Mike Thacker, Managing Director of Porism, who worked with Lambeth Council to develop the system said, “We are delighted to have worked so constructively with Lambeth in a venture designed to providing support for councillors developing role as well as to make their work easier and more productive.