George and council team on digital awards shortlist

Brought to you by the Morpeth Herald.
Brought to you by the Morpeth Herald.

Northumberland County Council has been shortlisted in two categories in this year’s Dynamites Awards – partially thanks to the efforts of a Pegswood teenager.

The awards, which are sponsored by BT, shine a spotlight on successful North East organisations and recognise the talent the region has to offer in the IT and technology sectors.

George Willcox, 16, is among the finalists in the Rising Star category for his contributions to the digital tech sector through his education and volunteering roles.

As part of the county council’s digital inclusion and skills work, the information services department facilitates a series of volunteer-led code clubs at primary and middle schools across the county.

An Ashington High School sixth form student, George gives up some of his spare time to run one of the clubs alongside his mother, Sam Willcox.

Together, they deliver basic coding skills to pupils aged between nine and 11 at Pegswood Primary School, which due to their hard work has become one of the most successful code clubs in Northumberland.

George is the only student among the shortlisted people across all of the award categories.

In addition, the council’s #VerifyLocal team, from the information services department, has been shortlisted in the Collaborator of the Year category for its work with Government Digital Services (GDS) and 24 other local councils across the UK on two pilot projects – concessionary travel and residential parking permits.

The initiatives, the first of their kind in the UK, have seen GDS and the local authorities work together to share best practice and make decisions on what the solutions will look like, creating common service patterns for the benefit of all residents.

The Northumberland authority provides a wide range of services across the county to approximately 316,000 residents and more than 11,000 businesses, with many of these located in remote rural areas.

Delivering such a wide range of services over a large area can prove challenging, especially for those services that require verification of an individual’s identity, which can cause a barrier to residents who live in remote areas.

The verify projects will reduce the requirement for face-to-face contact in order to access services, allowing the council to make efficiency savings and focus its resources more effectively.

Coun Nick Oliver, cabinet member for corporate services at the county council, said: “In George, we have a shining example of a young person who is actively helping to bridge the digital skills gap that is a feature across the UK, as well as here in Northumberland.

“His work is helping other young people in Northumberland to improve their skills, which will be invaluable to their futures

“The verify local projects will enable us to increase the number of services that the council can make available online – meaning that they are more accessible to all residents, regardless of where they live, while also providing efficiency savings, which are of benefit to everyone.”

The awards ceremony is taking place this evening at Newcastle Civic Centre.