Local Authority Checklist

A checklist - Achieving the local government gold standard approach

How your council can help build mobile Britain

Network operators are at the forefront of delivering on the Government’s ambition. The UK’s mobile infrastructure is getting better and better as a result of operators investing billions of pounds every year into network capacity and capability.

However, we can’t do this alone. Local and regional government has a key role to play in helping to improve mobile connectivity.

This checklist sets out the steps that local government and other public sector bodies should take if their communities are to get the full benefits of the next generation of mobile technology.

While these steps cannot guarantee better mobile coverage, by delivering on them local councils will be taking big steps towards better connectivity for their residents.

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Action: Adopt a proactive approach

Showing leadership and political will

Some metro mayors have developed, or have started to develop, ambitious digital strategies that include mobile. Some councils have committed financial resources to mobile connectivity. Some LEPs have funded programmes related to mobile connectivity.

Creating local government ‘digital champions’

Survey evidence has found that around half of councils have a cabinet member that champions digital issues. London has a Chief Digital Officer, and the West Midlands and Tees Valley combined authorities have stated intentions to hire one. Collaborations between local bodies – such as “Connecting Cambridgeshire” – are helping to drive a digital agenda. Norfolk County Council has a Digital Innovation and Efficiency Committee.

Providing training to ensure appropriate skills and knowledge

Some local authorities have job roles based upon improving mobile connectivity. Others have hired staff with experience in the telecommunications industry and have lent neighbouring councils this expertise.

Lobbying to remove barriers to mobile infrastructure deployment

The remit of the DCMS’s Barrier Busting Taskforce is to tackle the barriers to the rollout of full fibre and mobile equipment. Action has been identified as reducing the cost of street works, liberalising the planning regime and simplifying wayleave agreements. The Taskforce was only able to identify some barriers to rollout because key stakeholders made representations to them.
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Action: Plan for the future

Including mobile connectivity in local plans

At present, this does not happen as a matter of course – many local plans do not make any reference to mobile connectivity and when they do can include outdated information.

Auditing public sector assets as potential locations for mobile infrastructure

This could help to understand where mobile connectivity  an be delivered. For example, Norfolk County Council has publicly stated that it wants to use its assets to improve the consistency and quality of  mobile voice and data coverage.

Learn lessons from the rollout of broadband

This could help to understand how mobile connectivity can be delivered. For instance, some local areas have facilitated the rollout of broadband networks by aggregating public sector demand. This could include considering how council offices, libraries, schools, and other buildings from which local services are delivered.

Utilise economic development funds

Local economic development funds could be – and have been – used to support the build of mobile infrastructure. An understanding of the funds that are available is important if they are to be used; central government funding for local economic growth is subject to significant churn.
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Action: Build Partnerships and share best practice

Exploring different models of collaboration with the mobile industry

Examples of current partnerships include regular catch-up meetings and roundtables, which support a collaborative approach between the mobile industry and local political and business leaders.

Sharing best practice with other local bodies

The sharing of best practice is already happening in new structure of local government and economic development, such as combined authorities and Midlands Connect.

Building internal links between departments

Ensuring that there are strong links between economic development and planning directorates within local authorities is crucial for a joined-up approach to mobile connectivity.

Building external links with infrastructure providers

Any development – from upgrades to the road network to new housing estates – should consider digital infrastructure prior to construction beginning, not after construction is complete. At its most basic level, the planning for large-scale developments should include an impact assessment that looks at mobile coverage needs. This would require working with infrastructure providers to understand projects and the implications for connectivity.