Southend Borough Council is responsible for many important core services in the town, ranging from adult and children’s social care through to refuse collection and pier management. These services are managed by professional officers who work alongside a designated Cabinet Member; who gives democratic accountability to the process, (there are 8 cabinet members).
Most peoples vision of the other 43 Councillors is of a bunch of old men and women moaning about holes in the road or change that is happening in the town. That is a pretty accurate description for some... but I have recently been involved with a few Councillors on a working party, looking at the digital transformation of our town into a Smart City; and that has been a pleasant eye opener to the innovative and cutting edge thinking that our officers and Councillors can use to drive our towns’ development forward. A Smart City is an urban area that uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information which is used to manage assets and resources efficiently.
At the beginning of our journey we met with Cisco; who are the worldwide leader in I.T. and networking. The team that arrived at our Civic Centre had flown in from all over the world; from as close as Holland to as far as Singapore, and other far-east locations! They gave us a presentation that included the following message? “Many towns throughout the world have been good at marketing and promoting themselves as Smart Cities, but Southend has the solid foundation of a good network built by City Fibre, and an enabling platform that has been developed by Cisco. This makes Southend one of the best practise towns in the World!”
In my private sector work I am used to working with large Blue Chip companies but this is the first time I’ve experienced it with the Council… and I was blown away! That is an accolade that is hard to beat. Southend’s digital city strategy was being held up alongside Jaipur, Kansas City and Copenhagen!
So in practise what does it mean for us? The working party are looking at how we can use digital technology to improve the services we offer. So one of our next stops was to visit The Siemen’s Crystal. The Crystal is home to the world’s largest exhibition on the future of cities. It’s worth a visit and is located close to the Royal Victoria DLR and next to the Emirates Cable Car.
The Crystal had demonstrations on managing traffic flow, air quality, health connections, future shopping and a “24/Jack Bauer” type demonstration on use of digital technology to apprehend criminals.
The first areas we are focussing on in Southend are traffic flow and parking, air quality and the possibilities that can be exploited by digital start-ups to grow our technological economy.
One area I am particularly interested in and want to drive through, is the use of shared data in the health and social care sector. The ideal vison would be for a residents data to be securely available to all services they require, as well as being accessible to the resident to manage their own conditions. On too many occasions, people have to answer questions and provide information that should be available to all that require it, on a central information hub. This is a barrier to good treatment and is distressing for many patients.
Alongside this is another project called Digital Essex 2020. It has the following vision:
Health and Social Care organisations in Essex share an ambition to improve the services they deliver and the wellbeing and lives of the people they serve… The way that technology is used will be improved, with connected systems and better sharing of information to allow Health and Social Care professionals to be more responsive.
The Southend Digital Strategy and the Digital Essex 2020 will transform the way we work and if this is underpinned by an Integrated Health Partnership we could smash down information, budgetary and managerial barriers, to transform our health services.
I attended a presentation at Southend Hospital in which Dr Paul Guyler, the stroke specialist, outlined his plans to improve stroke services in Essex. He reassured us that each hospital will have an acute stroke service and that the changes will be an improvement on the current situation. That is good enough for me and I support his plans. I am working with all Political parties, Members of Parliament and Health Ministers to deliver Dr Guyler’s vision. Opposing change in health is not always the best. Otherwise we would still be popping down to the local barbers for a couple of leeches.
by Cllr James Moyies
Member of Southend Health & Wellbeing Board
Appointed Governor of Essex Partnership University Trust
(Mental Health and Community Services)
Ex Portfolio Holder for Health & Adult Social Care.
t: 07950 472295