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'Lenham Parish Council wanted to update the way in which Transport and Highway issues were recorded and shared with other committee members and other groups. It was felt that the old spreadsheet system was difficult to monitor as members were never sure if it was the most up-to-date copy available.

Therefore a solution was sort so that everybody only ever had one copy and it was always up-to-date. This was achieved by the use of Google docs, a free internet service where you can upload a spreadsheet which is then available to view or amend 24/7 online. You can then protect this by means of a secure password so that only the selected users can work with the document. Another option is to invite viewers to see the document and, as this suggests, they can only view the document and not alter it in any way. The Parish Council linked this free service with a Google mail account, so that all correspondence was in one central location.

So now we are now always up to date, and have more time to devote to the job in hand rather than constantly sending emails out with new file updates. We can share the workload as and when required, which we believe gives the community a better service without any extra costs.'

There you have it, parish councils and county councils alike can use a little bit of initiative and innovation to solve problems and make working life easier and more efficient. Please bear in mind though that not all council teams and departments have the resources to carry out such a large-scale project as the one illustrated above and the process is often long and time consuming, but a little thinking outside the box and an enthusiasm for improvement may prove to be fruitful.

- A special thank you to Lee Davison of Lenham Parish Council for the post, if you would like more information you can contact him at leetonidavison at hotmail dot com.

Picture: The title 'Google Docs' with related words such as 'collaboration', 'free forms' and 'documents' in a smaller font beneath, with thanks to Nedral for publishing under a Creative Comms license some rights reserved.

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