A leading councillor has called for new website services to help residents in Brighton and Hove gain more information about what is available to them.
Labour group leader Warren Morgan has called on Brighton and Hove City Council to show more innovation with its IT services and follow the lead of other local authorities already running such systems.
He has urged the authority to take a leaf out of the book of Oldham Council, which has a new IT system which helps benefit claimants find out what they are entitled to.
Another system allows residents to follow progress on requests to fill in potholes and carry out housing repairs.
Coun Morgan said the IT innovations were set to save the northern authority £800,000 as well as saving council officials’ time chasing up the progress of works on behalf of unhappy residents.
He added: “Councils need to make the best use of simple and affordable IT systems that save money and improve customer service for residents, for example being able to report a pothole online with a photo and a GPS tag, and follow the progress of that job through to completion.
“It is being done in many other councils and we could do it here.”
The call comes as fellow opposition leader Geoffrey Theobald criticised the value for money of IT services, with £10.5 million of new spending outlined in the new budget.
Coun Theobold said: “With that scale of expenditure in the current financial climate I think that, as members, we do need to be reassured that this level of council taxpayers’ money is going to bring real tangible ¬benefits to residents and staff.
“I’m not convinced that a proper market testing exercise has been undertaken to see whether the council is getting real value for money from its investment in these in-house service.”
But council leader Jason ¬Kitcat argues that the council’s current IT problems were due to previous years of underinvest¬ ment and that benefit advice was already available online.
He said other major councils were using the same software or older and that the council will be upgrading its PCs to use Windows 7 this spring.
He added: “We are making major progress in improving our infrastructure but there is much more we’d like to do to improve services for citizens, and technology has a big role to play in that.
“We are overhauling the council’s systems to make them a lot more efficient for everyone – for example fewer internal databases means it’s easier to share information across departments and follow up residents’ issues.”