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Our Local Digital Fund project - #FixThePlumbing

Making it easier for residents to tell the council they are moving home

Image of some keys to a new home

I'm Gary Williamson and I work in the Customer Services team at Sunderland City Council.  In November 2018, we submitted a Local Digital Funding bid for a discovery project to look at the challenges residents face when reporting a change of address to the council. In December, we received the excellent news that we were one of the 16 Local Digital Funding bids that had been successful. 

Our bid - Tell us Once move in process

Moving house is stressful and this is not helped by the many complex processes that people have to go through with councils, like updating their council tax details.

We want to understand this problem, the impact and the potential to develop a common digital approach to benefit residents and local authorities.

Who we are working with

Logo's of Sunderland City Council, Newcastle City Council, North East Lincolnshire Council, Watford Borough Council and Kirklees Council

This issue isn't unique to Sunderland, residents across the whole country face similar problems when telling a council they are moving.  When we submitted our Expression of Interest for funding, we were approached by some other councils who wanted to join the project.  The councils we are working with are:

  • Newcastle City Council
  • North East Lincolnshire Council
  • Kirklees Borough Council
  • Watford Borough Council

As we're all in different parts of the country, we won't have the luxury of being able to have regular face to face meetings, but we've already had the first of our regular conference calls and we're using tools like Trello and Google Drive to help us work together on delivering the discovery project.

Image of our project Trello board

How we are using our funding

Everyone in our team believe that this is a big issue for both residents and councils and this was echoed in the feedback we got from the assessor of our bid:

"This is tackling a big pain point in terms of cost for LAs and user experience for citizens"

We're eager to get our teeth into the project and understand more about the customer journey, but we all have day jobs to do and we know that we can't deliver what we need to deliver by the end of March with the resources that we have.

So we decided the best use of the funding would be to bring in some additional resource and expertise to help us deliver the project and to upskill our team (including me).

We really need help with user research so we've recruited a User Researcher to help us and our partner councils deliver this part of the project.  We're also going to use some funding on some Project Manager and Business Analyst resource.  All three will be working with us from the end of January.

What we have done up to now

We've already started work and we've had our first conference call with all partners. 

We've agreed the ways we will work together, developed a draft vision statement, defined the in-scope services and produced an inital set of performance indicators that will measure success.

One area we've had to start working on is identifying our users who will take part in any user research activities.  We only have a short amount of time to deliver this project and with our User Researcher starting work with at the end of January, we quickly needed to start work getting residents to give consent to take part. 

We've used social media to encourage users to sign up to our user panel.  We are also using our Contact Centre team to encourage residents to take part.

We've had a few people sign up already but we need some more, so if you live in Sunderland and you've moved recently, we'd love to hear your views on how you found reporting your move to the council. Sign up to our user panel and we'll be in touch shortly.

What's next

Our next tasks in the project will be gathering and analysing data from across all partner councils.  And with our User Researcher joining us shortly, we'll be talking to residents to get their views.

I'll be posting regular updates here on our progress. If you're interested in finding out what happens next, follow us on Twitter.

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