Failing council ICT service set for overhaul

A council is examining whether to outsource some or all of its ICT services after a report found the existing service suffered from a “lack of customer service and a lack of delivery”.

Scottish Borders Council undertook the review of its ICT function after criticisms and concerns were raised by councillors and staff relating to poor service, a lack of speed, no clear strategy, difficulties in recruiting specialists and perceptions that it was failing to support change.

The council has voted to restructure the service and will now explore options, including outsourcing and partnering with Edinburgh City Council.

A report which went before councillors said: “The scale of change required for this service is very significant indeed and even were the existing service performing very strongly, the Council would still have a gap in terms of strategic capability, planning, customer focus and transformation. It is clear that we have to source other skills and resources.”

The review found no council-wide ICT strategy or clear governance model is currently in place to deal with key service decisions.

It also said that ICT customer service is “seen as poor and not adding value to the council’s services”.

In addition, it said departments had purchased a range of ICT tools in isolation, naming the Cognos software, which should allow the pooling of data.

“Since acquiring Cognos very little progress has been made in utilising this tool in the optimum way,” it said.

The restructuring will establish a new chief officer of ICT, which could be created as a joint post with Edinburgh.

A decision as to which elements of the ICT service should be outsourced will be made following a technical assessment and implementation plan.

The council’s chief executive Tracey Logan said: “Further work with a range of stakeholders will now take place before a decision on the detailed implementation plan is made by councillors in October.

“That plan will include an assessment of the value for money case as to how each element of the service will be delivered in the future.”

A joint statement from public service unions said: “While GMB, Unite and Unison will never support outsourcing, we do believe the inclusion of our members in this now detailed review through workshops is a more positive step for our ICT members.

“Our members have been vocal in telling council management that they can deliver what is required. It is now up to management to work with us and actually be clear to our members about what they need.”

Colin Marrs

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