Sunderland to target cuts using ‘intelligence hub’

Sunderland City Council has awarded a contract to build a new “intelligence hub” aimed at crunching data to help target efficiency savings of £100m.

Enterprise data services supplier Palantir Technologies UK Limited has been selected by the council to deliver the new hub, after it received three bids.

The contract will be aimed at passing on the skills needed to enable the council to become fully-self sufficient in running it. The council has not revealed the value of the contract, but it was originally anticipated to be worth between £1.5m and £5m.

The tender award notice said: “The intelligence hub will gather, process and share data and information to help us better understand our customers and communities, their needs and patterns of behaviour and how they go about their business.

“It will support the devolution of decision making and help us focus on true need and the interventions that will make a real difference but based on evidence.

“It will help us discover what data really matters and drive transformational change, rationalising systems and reducing processing costs as part of the council’s Community Leadership Programme (CLP).”

The CLP was designed in 2009 as part of the council’s strategy to deal with the prospect of funding cuts and new demand. It is aimed at improving communication with the public, redesigning delivery mechanisms and creating economic sustainability.

The tender notice, released in July 2013, said that the hub would help the council aggregate and analyse data.

It said: “This is integral to the council’s refreshed three year change programme designed to achieve the estimated £100m of budget reductions whilst developing new sustainable models for the delivery of public services.”

The intelligence hub project will be aimed at giving the council skills including interpreting data and implementing spending choices based on the resulting analysis.

It will be used to target resources where they are most needed, understand the impact of services and interventions on the community and work collaboratively with health and police agencies.

In addition, the hub will lead to the visualisation of intelligence including comparative performance dashboards for “a wide range of stakeholders” to view.

The council said the hub “is a virtual concept rather than a standalone ‘system’ that brings together a range of tools, techniques, skill sets and specialisms.”

The contract will run for two years with the option to extend it for three periods of a year each.

Other councils and public sector bodies will be allowed to make use of services provided through the contract, the council said.

Palantir is a Silicon Valley firm with a London office and uses open source software to build its platforms, and has released some of its own software as open source.

The company’s website says: “Palantir has invested its intellectual and financial capital in engineering technology that can be used to solve the world’s hardest problems while simultaneously protecting individual liberty.

“Robust privacy and civil liberties protections are essential to building public confidence in the management of data, and thus are an essential part of any information system that uses Palantir software.”

Colin Marrs

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