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  4. fi Series Case Study: Northampton Borough Council

Northampton Borough Council

Freedom of information: Council uses Fujitsu
scanner to process FOI requests faster and
more efficiently

Industries:

  • Government

Offering Groups:

  • Scanners

Solution Areas:

  • Imaging Solutions

Regions:

  • United Kingdom
  • Europe

Challenges:

  • Number of FOI requests have increased rapidly over the last few years
  • Public bodies now require ever more robust systems to handle the flow
  • Prepare for even higher volumes in future

Benefits:

  • Fujitsu fi-5530C is easy to deploy, operate and maintain
  • Reliable, high-volume, precision scanning
  • Scans any paper size from A8 to A3
  • Helps the council to save resources and employee time
  • A key element in the freedom of information process
logo

Northampton Borough Council chose the compact and reliable Fujitsu fi-5530C desktop when it needed a high-volume workgroup scanner to digitise documents received with freedom of information (FOI) requests as well as digitising all existing paperwork. This precision device quickly and accurately produces scans from physical documents and images, which are then seamlessly integrated into the council’s electronic case-management system.

The challenge

Over the last 15 years, UK legislators have embraced the concept of open government as never before, passing a series of laws designed to give the public greater access to information. The Data Protection Act (1998), the Freedom of Information Act (2000) and the Environmental Information Regulations (2004) have introduced much greater transparency, giving citizens the right to view official documents and other records they might previously have been barred from seeing.

These rights of access to previously unpublished information has imposed new legal obligations on any organisation carrying out a public function, including government departments and local authorities. They must be equipped to respond promptly and fully to FOI requests and must follow strict guidelines when doing so.

The public have embraced these new or enhanced access rights. This has meant the number of FOI requests have increased rapidly over the last few years to the point where public bodies now require ever more robust systems to handle the flow, and prepare for even higher volumes in future. For Northampton Borough Council (NBC), the challenge was the same as for any other UK local authority: how to create a system that could meet its present and future requirements, respond quickly and efficiently to unexpected peaks in FOI requests, and integrate seamlessly with its other electronic systems.

fi-5530C2 workgroup scannerLike its predecessor the fi-5530C, Fujitsu's fi-5530C2 workgroup scanner is ideal for scanning of multi-page, colour or black and white documents and batches, and can scan any paper size from A8 to A3


The solution

To handle its FOI requests, NBC chose CycFreedom2 from Geoff Smith Associates Limited – a complete ’off the shelf’ solution specifically designed to case manage FOI and other Disclosure requests. This powerful system manages and records all of NBC’s FOI requests, challenges and complaints and stores the associated documents in digital formats. Once a request has been inputted CycFreedom2,

NBC’s staff can use the software to manage it every step of the way, from first response through to final resolution. FOI requests often generate and accumulate a lot of paperwork and other materials – such as letters, emails, faxes, plans, reports and photographs – which must be digitised before they can be inputted into CycFreedom2. For this task, NBC needed a precision workgroup scanner that would be simple to use and maintain, and could reliably handle high volumes.

NBC chose the Fujitsu fi-5530C because of its small desk-top footprint and ability to scan both sides at the same time. This versatile workgroup scanner is ideal for unattended scanning of multi-page, colour or black and white documents and batches, and can scan any paper size from A8 to A3. The ADF will take up to 100 sheets at a time processing them at up to 35 pages per minute.

The Fujitsu fi-5530C rapidly processes all physical FOI documents and images received by the council, and enables staff to keep on top of the flow of incoming paperwork – even at times of peak activity. Additionally other departments within NBC utilise Fujitsu fi-6770 flatbed scanners in conjunction with barcoding as part of their service specific case management systems.

The benefits

The high-speed Fujitsu fi-5530C quickly proved itself able to cope easily with new incoming FOI documents that require digitisation before being stored on CycFreedom2. This left plenty of spare capacity for the second major scanning task associated with the case-management system – the scanning of NBC’s backlog of paper files, received before it adopted CycFreedom2.

This was potentially a massive task, but David Taylor, Senior Information Governance Officer for NBC, said staff managed it easily with the Fujitsu fi-5530C: “All paper request files held prior to adopting the case-management system were back scanned effortlessly by the in-house team using the fi-5530C, taking on average three minutes per case.

“Two-and-a-half four-drawer filing cabinets were scanned over a two-month period – a few each day – using the scan document feature. The result is that 100% of all requests are now indexed and archived electronically.”

Taylor continued – “It's not just the removal of the manual file management processes or the ability to access the files wherever we are. It's the all round capability to manage the whole response process from request to disclosure and beyond from one system. The scanner is integral to the whole solution enabling all documents to be digitised, reviewed, redacted, compiled and released electronically. We now respond to almost 95% of all requests electronically compared to approximately 55% two years ago. Response times have fallen from an average of 12 days per request to under 8 and still falling. Reporting tools mean we can now review exemptions, look at the most common request types and service area hotspots. And that's without considering the inbuilt audit, case overview and staff workload management.”

Faster response

The powerful combination of the Fujitsu fi-5530C and CycFreedom2 means that NBC’s entire process for handling FOI requests is now almost completely electronic. This makes the process a lot more efficient. In fact, response times to current cases have improved significantly, while it only takes seconds for staff to use CycFreedom2 to call up the scans of documents associated with old cases.

Additional benefits of the Fujitsu fi-5530C for NBC:

  • Helps the council to continue to meet its statutory responsibilities
  • Scanned documents enable a clear audit trail within CycFreedom2
  • Several users can now access the same case file at the same time
  • High capacity means there is no immediate need to recruit extra staff
  • Saves physical storage space for paper documents
  • Old case files can be retrieved in seconds whichever office staff are working from Saves paper, ink and energy
  • As all the documents are managed electronically more requests can responded to electronically, saving printing and postage

Conclusions

The Fujitsu fi-5530C workgroup scanner is a reliable, high-volume engine that drives the processing of FOI requests for NBC. In tandem with CycFreedom2, it enables staff to cope easily with ever-increasing request volumes, while improving efficiency and response times.

Solution partners:

  • Fujitsu PFU Imaging Solutions
  • Geoff Smith Associates Limited
    Developers of the Cyclops Document and Records Management system and other Business Solutions, including CycFreedom2, currently used by numerous Police Forces and Councils.
    www.gsaltd.com
  • Northampton Borough Council
    NBC is the local authority for Northampton in the East Midlands.
    www.northampton.gov.uk

The trade marks, names, logos and service marks (collectively "trade marks") displayed in this document are registered and unregistered trade marks of their respective owners.

For more information:

  • Scanners: Workgroup scanners