Cabinet Office ‘agrees to create PSN advisory unit’

Details of a revised approach to ensuring councils comply with the Public Services Network (PSN) standards are emerging, including the news that the Cabinet Office has agreed to create an oversight unit to help advise officers.

Socitm, the professional body for people involved in the leadership and management of public services ICT, this morning announced that the Cabinet Office is commissioning a secure solutions advisory group (SAG).

It said that the group would help broker future changes to PSN compliance. Last week, Socitm president Steve Halliday proposed that any such new unit should have a staff of at least five staff, but there is no news on how the SAG will be resourced.

The announcement said that an initiative including Socitm and the Local Public Services CIO Council, involving the Local Government Association and SOLACE, which represents chief executives and senior managers, has helped lead to a revised compliance regime.

Earlier this year, the cabinet Office threatened disconnection for local authorities which failed to meet PSN standards.

With the end-of-March deadline for compliance looming, concerns have been raised that some local authorities will be unable to make the necessary arrangements in time, or, even if they are, the Cabinet Office will be unable to process their certification in time to prevent disconnection.

Socitm today said that although this “zero tolerance” approach would remain, the revision will lead to changes in the culture, communications and processes of PSN.

The announcement said: “These three have overshadowed the technical compliance balance of information security and business agility.

“A pragmatic balance of risk and agility remains an objective of Socitm, the Cabinet Office, CESG, SOLACE and the LGA.”

Dialogue over the changes is ongoing, it said, through the Local Government PSN Seniors team.

Socitm President Steve Halliday said: “It is of the utmost importance to get the PSN story re-focused on the business benefits of the PSN’s core offer; an infrastructure for efficiencies, shared services and collaborative outcomes.

“Staff across the Cabinet Office, CESG (the National Technical Authority for Information Assurance), Department for Work and Pensions and local government organisations like Socitm are working hard towards this objective.

“It is my hope and optimistic belief that the compliance storm will pass and the benefits will then flow”

A briefing for Socitm members also says that solutions to ensure PSN compliance adopted by some councils, such as creating separate networks for PSN facing systems and ordinary systems were “unlikely to remain viable for the long term”.

Colin Marrs

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