How are government cuts affecting councils’ IT strategies?

With the public purse being squeezed, some councils are having to come up with fresh ways to make sure their budget for IT doesn’t disappear.

Two such councils – Islington and Camden – have unveiled proposals to establish a shared Information and Communications Technology service by April 2016.

Both councils, who employ over 300 ICT staff between them, already use a range of technologies from websites and apps to newer platforms that enable staff to work on the move, helping the councils to save time and money. 

"The creation of a shared ICT service will help consolidate expertise, exchange knowledge and share best practice across both local authorities, offering a higher-performing, more responsive and more integrated service for local people," the pair said in a statement.

Under the proposals, a joint committee made up of representatives from both councils will meet in public to oversee the service and a single post will be created to lead and manage it. 

In time, the plans would save £4 million a year when the two councils are looking to have to save up to £185 million between them by 2018/19, as a result of further deep government cuts. 

The news is not surprising – cuts are now the norm in the public sector and we’re sure you can expect this kind of thing to continue in the future. It’s a shame that cuts may hinder investment in technology and IT, especially in today’s age of on-demand data and fast mobile technologies (just take a look at the state of the computers in your local library).

If the plan is approved, the costs and savings of the project will be shared equally between the two boroughs which have a longstanding track record of collaboration – and already share their public health and internal audit services.

Islington Council’s executive member for finance and performance, Cllr Andy Hull, said: “Islington and Camden are coming together to harness digital technology so that we can deliver services in a way that both suits local people and saves us precious money at a time when the government continues to cut inner-city councils to the bone.

"It’s a good example of how, in the face of unprecedented challenges, we are innovating and coming up with genuinely transformative solutions.”

Camden Council’s cabinet member for finance and technology, Cllr Theo Blackwell, added: “Both councils have a long history of collaboration and share similar objectives, so it makes perfect sense to come together to provide an improved service at a lower cost. In the future, the joint service may also be able to generate income for both councils through selling its combined expertise.”

The decision on whether to proceed with the proposals will be made by the Cabinet at Camden Council on September 9th and by the Executive at Islington Council on September 24th. 

If it goes ahead, you can expect more councils and organisations in the public sector to initiate similar strategies to deal with cuts.

Image source: Shutterstock

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