Councils undertake ICT merger savings probe

Three councils which have received government backing for merger proposals are to investigate how much money will be saved on ICT services.

On Friday, the government announced that it would grant £600,000 to assist with plans by North Dorset District, West Dorset District and Weymouth & Portland Borough Councils to share a chief executive and senior management team.

The bid document submitted to government estimated costs over two years of merging ICT across the councils at £1.49m, but a report by officers said that more work needs to be done to specify an exact figure for savings.

The report said: “The next stage is to agree the options to be taken forward which will then enable the specifications to be written; only then will it be possible to define timescales, costs and achievable benefits.”

The detailed review will identify areas where harmonisation of existing systems and processes can be achieved.

Across the three councils, according to the business plan,  the costs of implementing the changes would include £550,000 in staffing costs, £125,000 for developing a model for communication between councillors and staff, £600,000 for planning and implementing a joint ICT service, £220,000 for professional and technical support for the division of physical assets.

The council says that savings would be achieved through:

  • Improved contract management
  • Aligning and consolidating contracts between the districts and Dorset County Council
  • Converging applications across county/sharing services/cloud based hosting
  • Communications – leveraging technology such as unified communications to access cheaper rates
  • Microsoft holiday

If it goes ahead, the proposal to merge councils will create the largest lower tier council in Dorset, serving a population of approximately 235,000 people in 200 parishes.

The first stage of the proposal would see all three councils sharing a chief excecutive and senior management team, followed by a full merger of backroom staff.

The councils have yet to agree the political nature of the merger, with the councillors report saying: “This may involve the three councils agreeing which are the services and decisions where it is most important to retain the capacity for local difference (local services).

“Other decisions, where a joint approach is appropriate (core services), could be made either by joint decision making bodies or by a single report being taken through three decision making processes.”

Colin Marrs

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