AS cash strapped councils across the country struggle to deliver services such as adult social care, one local authority is taking advantage of modern technology to assist with cutting costs.

As part of a £50,000 program put together by the Hampshire County Council, the Council has given out 50 voice-activated virtual assistants to see if they can take on some of the work.

The Amazon Echo is a voice-activated home speaker with wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity powered by Alexa software.

The council says over 9,000 people are currently benefiting from assistive technology such as Amazon’s Echo, with 100 new referrals being made each week.

Echo users can add new skills to the device and then simply “ask Alexa” to remind them to take medication or check whether their carer is due to arrive.

The county council has become the first local authority to start working with Amazon in a trial using a customised version of their Echo device to support people to live independently.

Director of Adults’ Health and Care Graham Allen says the success has “exceeded expectations”.

He said: “A lot of eyes are on Hampshire to understand what can be learned from this.”

Allen said the technology helped the department reduce costs by £43.1 million over the past two years, with a new programme aimed at further cutting costs by £56m.

Steve Carefull, PA Argenti programme director, says the project is just the latest example of the “industry leading” work with which the partnership is involved.

“We are proud to be working with one of the biggest household names. This technology can complement support from human carers and help ensure resources are focused on supporting those with the greatest needs.”

The deployment of artificial intelligence technologies in various forms is expected to affect about one-third of jobs in the public sector by the mid-2030s, PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a study published last month.