Councils in the UK are shocking all and sundry by actually saving money instead of wasting it, saving as much as £230 million by using smartphone applications and location-based services instead of more expensive alternatives.
A report by the Local Government Association revealed the surprising savings, all of which are attributed to better use of new technology.
Refuse collection is being made more efficient through the use of GPS, web-mapping and other location-based services. People are using applications on their iPhones to find out when the next bus is arriving and when and where roadworks are going on, fulfilling some council duties through a mobile phone.
Councils also have an interesting new way to report vandalism and fly-tipping: take a photo on your phone and send it in via a vandalism application, saving money on the traditional call centre alternative.
The ability to pay for your parking via your smartphone was also included in the report, and some of these meters are even powered by the sun, saving extra money on electricity costs.
If that were not enough, citizens can even use hygiene rating applications which use GPS tracking to find your location and identify the pub or restaurant you're pointing your phone at before telling you the cleanliness of the place according to council inspections. There's even a 0 rating. We anticipate a lot of places losing business as a result of this.
Councillor David Parsons, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Improvement Board, said: “Whether it’s bin men working more efficiently, fewer phone calls to inquiry centres or reducing parking ticket machine maintenance costs, making the most of modern technology and data sharing has resulted in huge cash savings across the country.
“It is estimated such technology and information sharing could potentially save councils up to £372m by 2014/15.”
The problem with this change is that it requires users to have a smartphone that can utilise the apps, which many simply do not currently have. So while it may offer some savings, councils will still need to operate old-fashioned methods to accomodate those who cannot utilise the apps, leading the cynical-minded to question if running two different services might actually cost more money instead of less.
Or are councils just after more iPads?