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Having gone two rounds of lockdown, the Council of the Future (COTF) change programme entered 2021 far from knocked out.

COTF has rolled with the punches and secured several wins this year that have brought to life our priorities – Communities, Enterprise, and Innovation.

Rather than give a blow-by-blow account of all COTF achievements, as the article would read like War & Peace, here are some highlights.

Community Conversations kickstarted the New Year, providing essential information to take forward the Strategic Property Review project and a few months later another round was completed that helped shape the Falkirk Plan.

The Falkirk Plan identifies the greatest inequalities facing local people and how the Community Planning Partnership aims to tackles these over the next 10 years. 

The Analogue to Digital Telecare project secured a silver award in February, quickly followed by a gold award for its work safeguarding our Mobile Emergency Care Service (MECS). The work of the Analogue to Digital Telecare team also helped us secure coveted glassware.

MECS Team with the Herald Digital Transformation Award

Pictured: Members of the MECS Team Carol Mcphail and Marie Dalgety (foreground) holding the award, Maureen Lockey (middle) and Analogue to Digital Telecare Project leads, Ian Whitelaw and Pauline Waddell (back row).

The M365 project put Yammer on the card as a way for employees to easily communicate with each other across services as well as training to get everyone up to speed with the new tools and techniques needed to get the most out of the software.

Employability not only helped rollout the Young Person's Guarantee providing support to nearly 250 young people facing the greatest barriers to work, the Employment & Training Unit project team also helped 221 trainees secure jobs by end of Q2 2021/2022. That's 76 more than the whole of the previous year.

Fit for the Future brought forward changes to the workforce package and a call out for graduates made. Then Elected Members agreed the refreshed workforce plan that would help bring even more young blood into the Council’s corner.

Some of our previous graduates

Pictured: Some of our previous graduates.

Through the Economic Recovery project Business Gateway and support teams awarded 29 resilience and adaptive grants to help businesses become more resilient in the wake of COVID-19.

And the Council was awarded £20m from the UK Government's Levelling Up Fund to help create a futuristic bridge that will alleviate traffic pressures and help drive forward our economic recovery and growth agenda.

View of Westfield Aerial Bridge from Falkirk Fire Station

Pictured: View of Westfield aerial bridge from Falkirk Fire Station.

Digital transformation continued apace with automated payments launched and My Falkirk continued to provide a digital lifeline to customers while a digital exclusion fund continues to connect the disconnected.

In the second half of the year, upgrading our CCTV system provided positive headlines and a chatbot was unveiled to help customers find information on our website easily.

Read more about the positive impact the Digital Communities project has had.

Transformation of Roads & Grounds moved to a fully digital end-to-end process for managing defect reports and inspections of its assets, which included providing the workforce with devices and training.

And free Wi-Fi was delivered to all four district centres through the Town Centre Regeneration project.

While the Advice Hubs & Spokes Project ensured those who couldn’t connect with the Council online still had a place to go for advice and support when they re-opened the East, West and Central Hubs during the summer.

Central Hub staff in Falkirk Library

Pictured: Members of our Hub Team in the Falkirk Library.

Plans for a new HQ & Arts Centre rumbled on and work to turn a former call centre into a modern and efficient office began in earnest, with employees asked to suggest and vote for their favourite office name. The champion? The Foundry.

Our Anytime Anywhere project gave employees a voice, asking those working from home how they wanted to work in the future. Working with ICT, the project also helped launch our desk booking app.

Inside the Foundry -

Pictured: Bright and airy, inside the Foundry. You can see more images online.

All the while a new training programme was being worked out with external experts. The aim was to strengthen the COTF programme, making it more resilient and a real contender for change.

Blood, sweat and tears went into creating a system that would Power Our Priorities, with Project Managers going the distance to ensure their projects moved up the rankings and started to deliver real benefits.

Find out more about POP and our Gateways to Change.

Tallying the scores, we hosted 11 Elected Member Seminars to keep councillors up to speed with priority projects. The teams behind the priority projects also reported progress to the Council of the Future Board, the Executive, the Education, Children and Young People Executive and Scrutiny during 2021.

Falkirk Performs was also launched and hosts information now on these projects and the Council’s overall performance.

The bell rang and round 1 of Community Choices resulted in 36 local community groups across the Falkirk Council area secure more than £51k of extra funding. After polishing its technique, round 2 of Community Choices commenced in November, with the winners of both the funding streams available due to be announced in early 2022.

Stenhousemuir Football Club received funding through Community Choices.

Pictured: Stenhousemuir Football Club received funding through Community Choices. Find out more.

Two Zero-based Budgeting projects were launched, one to look at transport costs and another secondary education. Their aim is to challenge services to analyse where and what they spend money on, starting with a clean canvas each year and help us make the cut when it’s time to weigh in for the budget.

Having an agile corner, a watertight strategy and quick feet proved a winning combination for the Connected Falkirk project, which helped it roll with the punches the pandemic rained down to pick up the heavy weight belt in November when it handed out the last of 16,000 iPads to school pupils. 

Pupils with their Connected Falkirk devices

Pictured: Pupils with their Connected Falkirk iPads. Find out how the Connected Falkirk team hit its objectives.

The Scottish Government walked into the ring to launch its Let’s do Net Zero Campaign at Bantaskin Primary School and our Climate Change team rolled out carbon literacy training to Elected Members and Chief Officers.

The team also quantified our carbon offsetting potential, promoted Climate Change week and were involved in the launch of Forth Valley for Net Zero, a website dedicated to promoting what our area is doing to tackle climate change. Then the big guns landed in Glasgow for COP26.

The Sustainable Travel project also got into the ring to not only encourage active and sustainable travel with the launch of the BetterPoints app but also a greener way to travel with the launch of our electric Car Club.

The launch of our electric car club

Pictured: The launch of our electric car club.

Best Value reared its head as a worthy opponent. Months of going toe-to-toe with the Audit Team resulted in the report on the Council being considered by the Accounts Commission this month (December).

Its findings will be published in January shortly followed by our action plan. The action plan will put collective leadership and transformation top of the billing and get the whole Council fighting fit in the New Year.

2022 in sparklers