Interview: Bexley Council’s ICT chief on how a new managed services contract will save £9m but maintain core infrastructure

Big savings and business continuity are key to the London Borough of Bexley’s new technology agreement. Gill Hitchcock talks to the council’s ICT chief Graham Ward.

Bexley Council’s deputy director for services and programmes Graham Ward has high hopes that an ICT deal will make a major contribution to the £25m the London borough must save over the next three years.

His council’s new managed services contract deal will save an average of £1.8m in each of the next five years, he predicts.

Transition from Bexley’s existing agreement with Steria, which has spanned 14 years and two re-tenders, began in January. If all goes to plan, new contractor Northgate will launch its service on 1 April. 

Ward, who is responsible for all the council’s ICT services and oversaw the tendering process, reveals that the value of the contract is £11.8m.

“One of the main drivers for the new deal was delivering business-as-usual services,” he says. “The other was savings. So we were asking the supplier to make cost reductions while maintaining core infrastructure.”

The programme, dubbed “Business As Usual”, includes providing technology services for nearly 2,000 staff who use the council’s network. About 1,500 of those staff operate remotely – including home working via laptops. The remaining 500 are desktop users. 

It will support 200 business software products, which underpin services ranging from health and social care, through to environmental, corporate and planning services. 

“We have 40 sites on the network, including libraries, children’s centres, depots, and so on,” says Ward. “And to support that there is massive data storage. We are talking about over 100 terabytes of data stored across all the council systems. So it’s a pretty big operation.”

Bexley also wants to modernise through greater digital delivery, and the new agreement includes an “IT enabler fund” for this purpose.

“It is likely to mean high-level consultancy to explore more digital ways of working or more efficient ways of running the ICT, and in particular more digital within customer-related services,” Ward explains.

He says Bexley encourages all its major contractors to take on local apprentices and that across the council’s departments there are approximately 20 apprentices. The new ICT contract will be no exception.

“I imagine that over the life of this contract we will put in 10 to 15 apprentices, which means that young local people in the borough have employment within the ICT sector, particularly for those young people who don’t want to go down the university route and study ICT,” says Ward.

A major change will be to move Bexley’s data centres to a single site in Bracknell, Berkshire. 

“There will be economies of scale because we currently have over 300 servers, all within the borough,” says Ward. 

“The previous model was to have a lot of on-site staff supporting the service, whereas the new supplier will have fewer staff on site and they will use their remote teams to deliver the service.”

Bexley has already cut £70m from its budgets and with the £25m to come, Ward says the council should be self-financing by 2020. He believes the new ICT arrangement will make “a significant contribution as a single service” to this reduction.

Jim Dunton

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