To help all applicants, previously answered questions about applying to Round 5 of the Local Digital Fund have been anonymised and published here. These questions will be used to update our guidance for future rounds of funding.
Previously answered questions
1. Are Combined Authorities able to apply to the fund? Should we be able to place a bid, it would involve a digital solution covering 5 local authority areas, and collaborative working with officers across these councils.
Yes, a Combined Authority is able to submit an application to the fund. We would require the Combined Authority to be a Local Digital Declaration signatory – you can sign up on our website.
2. Can we put in multiple bids from the same council? I work with a number of different services and they have expressed an interest in applying.
In point 15 of the prospectus, it states: ‘Each local authority can submit up to 2 proposals to lead the projects and can be a partner on as many projects as they can actively support’.
3. Can a local authority (LA) apply for this funding as a single applicant or does this have to involve a consortium of local authorities, with one LA being the lead partner?
If you are making an application under theme 1, bids can be put forward by a single local authority and do not require contributions from other organisations.
If you are making an application under theme 2, all bids will need to be developed or contributed to by 3 or more local authorities, including the lead council.
Please refer to the ‘Who can apply’ section on page 5 of the prospectus for more information.
4. What can the Local Digital Fund be used for and how long is the application process?
The fund can be used for two themes; development platforms and software.
Applications close on Sunday 26 September and we aim to announce successful projects before the end of October. You can find more detailed information on page 6 of our prospectus.
5. Can lead and partner councils sign up to the Local Digital Declaration retrospectively i.e post bid submission, or is this included in the bid scoring?
Lead and partner councils do need to be signatories to be eligible for funding. However, you are certainly able to start your application without being a signatory.
6. What advice would you give to those of us who will be writing the bids? What gives a bid the strongest chance of success, and what tends to make bids less successful?
Successful applications should have a clear narrative thread that articulates:
- the problem to be solved
- the solution to address it
- why it would benefit councils and users of a service
Bids that are not successful at sift stage are usually:
- unable to demonstrate that they have a team or plan in place with adequate senior support
- vague with regards to the delivery plan
We will need to see outcomes and evidence from a previous phase of work, such as a discovery or alpha. We will give priority to projects which have the potential for immediate impact and benefits such as savings, or improvements for users. Please refer to point 16 of the prospectus for more information.
7. What percentage of applications for funding in the alpha phase are granted funding?
Unfortunately we aren’t able to answer that as we don’t yet know how many successful applications we are going to get for this round of funding. To date we’ve funded 23 projects across discovery – alpha – beta.
8. I see that this is round 5 of the invitations to bid for the Local Digital Fund. How many other rounds are there likely to be and what is the time frame for the next point when you will open for bids?
We currently have plans for one open funding round this financial year. Anything beyond this will be subject to the outcome of the next spending review.
We recommend signing up to the Local Digital newsletter to stay up to date with our latest news and announcements about future open rounds of funding.
9. We’re looking at a project to do with digital museum collections and finding ways to make cultural heritage enticing and intriguing through a digital medium. We’d like to push some boundaries and create designs that others could re-use, but because it’s not a transactional service I’m not sure if it’s something you would even consider funding?
We have two thematic focuses for this open funding round: development platforms and software (for alpha and beta phases). If you’d like to read more about these, they can be found on page 5 our prospectus. If your proposed project fits within these themes then yes, we’d consider funding.
10. Is the funding only for ideas that are up and running in some way, and not for ideas that have not started or had internal funding allocated?
We’re looking for projects that have already completed a discovery or alpha phase or are ready to start an alpha or beta phase. There’s some detail about how we score applications that you might find useful in our prospectus (see Annex A on page 10).
For applications under theme 1, the project should already have a development platform in place, or have approval to procure a platform e.g. written a business case and the business case has been approved.
11. We are looking at improving how residents report issues on streets, like littering, dog fouling and fly tipping. Could this be used to help research/implement products that are already out there? And/or developing our own Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system?
It sounds like this could be a good use case for developing or using products that are already out there. You might also be interested in our previously funded Housing Repairs project for reporting issues with housing.
12. If we were to apply for the alpha are you expecting us to have done a whole discovery project related to the solution beforehand?
For solutions to be taken forward, we would expect you to have:
- completed a discovery or alpha,
- demonstrated that the proposal is the right solution to be taken forward, based on initial research.
You can find more information on how we score applications in the prospectus (see Annex A on page 10).
13. Is there any flexibility on delivering outputs outside of the stated output timelines (12 weeks for alpha, 6 months for beta)?
As part of your application, you’ll be asked to provide an overview of your plan and timescales for delivery. If you have constraints to these please highlight them as part of an application.
You can also provide details about how you might bolster your team – through procuring a supplier, or individual specialists – which may help you to meet timelines.
14. Can I check when the alpha or beta projects would have to start? We’re in the middle of our discovery phase at the moment and had planned to try and start an alpha project in early 2022.
We would expect projects to start as soon as possible. Alpha projects are expected to have outputs ready 12 weeks after funding, and beta projects are expected to have outputs within 6 months.
15. We have a fair idea of what we need from discovery, but may be able to achieve this by building our own strategy but using existing tools like Slack and Facebook to make it work. Would that fit in with this bid or does it have to be new technology developed through alpha?
That’s completely fine, bids do not have to be new technology. For theme 1, we are looking for modern user-friendly development platforms that enable councils to design and build different types of front facing services.
This may include low code platforms, open source technology, or similar solutions aimed at end to end service transformation.
You can find more detail on page 7 of the prospectus under ‘alpha funding and required deliverables’.
16. Could the alpha funding be used to run customer focus groups and incentivise some of our potential applicants to test our website user checklist concepts (in our case potential or existing licensed taxi drivers)?
Normally, at alpha we would expect something to be developed/prototyped for testing. If that requires some further user research to support this, it should be fine.
17. We are looking at bidding along with a couple of other authorities for a beta project. Where do you suggest the best place is to start? We are concerned about the tight timelines!
We welcome applications from partners, particularly for theme 2, software.
We are funding alpha and beta phases, so would expect you to have completed an alpha phase or be ready to start a beta phase. There’s some detail about how we score applications that you might find useful in our prospectus (see Annex A on page 10).
For applications under theme 1, development platforms, the project should already have a development platform in place, or have approval to procure a platform e.g. written a business case and the business case has been approved.
18. What exactly is expected as an output that can be used by another council? We already use a low code platform to develop on and there may be some restrictions within our contract around sharing of applications.
There is obviously a willingness to share and several possible options that we can explore but it would be helpful to understand what exactly we are expected to produce e.g. is it code, is it guidance on what we did and how we implemented it or is it a finished application to be shared?
The range of outputs you have identified are exactly what we would be looking for, in addition to the outputs identified in our prospectus (see point 28 for alphas and point 33 for betas).
Page 11 of the prospectus asks you to also consider whether the platform has a library of modules/code that other councils can access. Code and accompanying guidance would therefore be what we would expect to see, however, if you do produce a reusable application, that would also be welcome!
19. What theme would we fit it into if we are developing an application on Microsoft Platform for re-use?
You’d most likely be looking at theme 1, development platforms. Please see the prospectus for more information.
20. Are you looking for a geographical spread of funded projects?
We love to see projects from across the country and welcome applications from geographically diverse local authorities, but we don’t score based on this!
21. Is there any way of being notified in advance about when future funding rounds are going to open?
The Local Digital newsletter is the best way of staying up to date with our latest news and announcements about our future open rounds of funding and we will always endeavour to give as much notice as possible to local authorities. Subscribe to the newsletter.
22.As a supplier, are you able to put us in touch with councils who may be interested in working with us on a proposal?
We will retweet requests from local authorities looking for collaborators on their fund application via our Twitter, so it would be worth following us and keeping an eye out for any appropriate requests.
You could also look to put out a request out for potential collaborators via your own twitter page using the hashtag #LocalDigitalFund.
23. The fund criteria states that multiple local authorities should bid but we are just one county council, and although we share borders with authorities we work closely with, we all operate slightly differently. Given we have a very large local authority as well as multiple other providers joining up for this work, would we meet the criteria?
We do require partners for theme 2 – this is to help address problems being experienced by more than one authority, and to help ensure that any outputs are reusable and that solutions are scalable.
As you have identified that your neighbouring local authorities operate slightly differently, an option would be to consider a partner from elsewhere in the country.
24. Are parish councils eligible to apply for the Local Digital Fund?
We are only able to accept applications from local authorities in England. However other organisations, such as parish councils, are able to be a project partner on an application.
Full details of the eligibility criteria can be found in the prospectus (see ‘Who can apply’ on page 5).
25. Our project is currently in the discovery stage. Can we still apply for the fund?
If you have completed enough of your discovery to have identified the problem worth solving and know which ideas you wish to test and prototype in alpha, and are able to demonstrate this in your application, then we would welcome your application.
26. We require a more modern service desk management system. Would this be an appropriate request for this type of funding?
We have two themes for this funding round: ‘theme 1 – development platforms’ and ‘theme 2 – software’. It sounds like your proposal could potentially fit into either of these themes, so you are welcome to apply.
27. We are a supplier that is currently in the early stages of trying out an idea to make it really easy for residents to submit problems in their community. Would there be funding available for this kind of project?
The Local Digital Fund aims to help local authorities implement the Local Digital Declaration by funding projects that address common local service challenges in common, reusable ways. We therefore welcome applications from council-led digital projects only, though councils may choose to work with other organisations as part of these projects.
28. Does the funding/cost specifics need to be net of VAT?
Funding needs to show all project costs, so please do include the net of VAT.