Council rejects government technology framework

Stoke-on-Trent council is to create its own £10m framework as its main vehicle to buy technology products after rejecting the version run by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) as too unwieldy.

The council’s cabinet voted yesterday to tender for suppliers to join a new framework to provide commoditised ICT, software, professional services and support and maintenance for a period of four years.

A report by officers said that using the CCS Technology Products Framework for the requirements would mean having to carry out further competitions between suppliers in a lot for each specific call-off.

“Such a requirement would be very time consuming given that the council place in the region of 350 orders annually and hence the use of this framework for all items is not considered to be a viable option,” it said.

However, the CCS framework could provide an alternative procurement route as a back-up when the city council is unable to obtain goods or services through its own proposed framework, officers added.

Last year, the council spent £2.1m on ICT products and services, and the council believes the value of purchases which could be made through its four-year framework could be as high as £10m.

The report said; “Given the volume of purchase orders it is believed that the best option is for the council to establish its own framework agreement with either one or a small number of suppliers and to provide for a direct call-off with the supplier(s) allowing a quick route to market.”

The council will now begin a procurement process compliant with European Union procurement rules, it said.

Speaking at the Public Sector ICT summit in London yesterday, Sarah Hurrell, CCS commercial director of technology, said the government has reduced the number of ICT frameworks from 20 to 10 over the past year.

She said: “We are trying to simplify things. Each individual framework might be a little more complicated in options, but we are meeting the needs of everyone from the Ministry of Defence to Nottingham City Council.”

Separately, Stoke-on-Trent also announced yesterday that it will invest £1.2m in technology as part of a plan to transform back office functions and save £4.5m in the next financial year.

A digital business plan – one of three prepared by consultant PwC for the council – aims to improve online services for residents.

Plans include overhauling the council’s website with easy navigation, making it mobile phone-friendly, reducing redundant pages and improving customer self-service functions.

This includes reporting housing repairs online, booking appointments and a new online payments system, as well as increased back office integration to improve functionality and relaying data to services.

Extra computers, kiosks and “digital helpers” will be available in libraries and council buildings across the city.

Council chief executive John van de Laarschot said: “We are working in a way that will allow us to fully redesign services, instead of having to continue to make cuts to those that we currently provide.”

Colin Marrs

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