The Borough of Poole is a unitary authority responsible for local government in Poole, which is in Dorset, England, and is comprised of 16 wards and 42 councillors. In almost every corner of the council – committees, cabinets, council meetings, working parties and unit meetings – paper was driving the agenda. To solve this, we embarked on a council-wide initiative to reduce the volume of paper in circulation and cut the amount of paper being printed and copied with specific areas targeted initially.

Bundles of legal documents associated with child protection cases and the adoption panel were two examples targeted to reduce waste within the Legal and Democratic Services. Court documents for child protection cases can sometimes run to 4,000 pages, the equivalent of up to five or more lever arch files. To distribute these bundles to associated partners, such as assigned counsel, external solicitors, police, NHS and other local authorities, we used to send the documents via secure file transfer to a local printing service for reproduction. From here, the documents were couriered to the Council’s legal team for checking before being sent out securely by Document Exchange (DX), private secure mail system, to solicitor firms and by special delivery or even courier for other involved partners. This process takes place many times throughout the month.

We introduced the Paperless Members Initiative to cut waste and promote flexible working practices. Our annual print budget is £60,000 and – aside from wanting to meet our environmental goals – we wanted to cut this overhead dramatically. Having used Huddle successfully now for nearly a year in connection with the Adoption Panel and Legal Social Services cases, the service has helped pave the way forward for the Paperless Members Initiative. With Parliamentary and Borough Elections scheduled for May this year, the focus will be on migrating away from the current outdated and costly paper practices for the Council’s democratic agenda, following the new intake of elected members.

Before using Huddle, we used Cisco’s secure encrypted email to send out sensitive data to external third parties. However, this was far from straightforward. There was a limitation on the size of document that could be sent via the system. Most attachments exceeded the limitation of 25MB in size, which would then lead to files being copied and encrypted onto disks, sent via DX, special delivery, courier or in some cases teams resorting to paper copies. This caused delays to the dispatch of data and absorbed productivity time.

Being able to work with people effectively outside of the Borough of Poole was a major goal. We looked at consumer tools like Dropbox, but were concerned about the security implications. We’re dealing with highly sensitive information, so the security needs to be completely watertight. As soon as we looked at Huddle, we knew we’d found the answer to our paperless sharing initiative.

Huddle’s intuitive workspace model makes it significantly easier for legal teams to collaborate on legal bundles across both desktop and mobile services. We can now share documents both internally and externally with third parties in a secure way and keep tight control over document versioning. When updated versions of files are uploaded to Huddle, instant access is provided to all parties who are to view. This ensures that everyone is reading the most up-to-date documents relating to a case.

As not all team members are tech savvy, moving to a paperless system with Huddle and tablets has not been without its challenges. As well as having to access documents via a new service (Huddle), team members also had to familiarise themselves with using a tablet device, which for some was a completely alien experience. However, with some time and patience, people soon got up and running and members would now not go back to using paper.

Unlike email, discussions are not lost. From a judge’s directions and meeting notes, to medical and psychological assessments, it’s all contained in a single environment. Cases can run over many years, so it’s imperative to maintain clear, consistent and continual collaboration. With Huddle, nothing is missed or overlooked.

An adoption panel member recently had a problem accessing documents for one of the scheduled meetings whilst away on business in France. Following contact with me in the UK, I simply logged onto Huddle through my laptop at home and sorted out the issue within 30 minutes of receiving the call. Previously, that member would have had to wait for several days whilst a further paper copy was collated and sent off to them by secure post. Everyone who touches Huddle now, loves it. The feedback is really positive because it makes the whole team so much more productive.

Liz Hall, business manager (Legal and Democratic) at the Borough of Poole

Liz Hall is the business manager for legal and democratic services at the Borough of Poole. Liz was tasked with running an iPad pilot to try to reduce the dependency on hard copy materials, which run into the thousands of sheets of paper. To start the transition to digital documents, Liz ensured each adoption panel member had access to an iPad and the move to cloud collaboration began.

 


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