After two years of cooperation, London boroughs will return to individual IT and digital services arrangements after concluding they have ‘diverging priorities’
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Local authorities in the north London boroughs of Haringey, Islington, and Camden have decided to call time on their shared ICT service.
The agreement will officially come to an end on 31 December, and the three councils have until New Year’s Day to each get their own individual service up and running.
According to a cabinet report published by Haringey, “it has become clear that the three councils have different local priorities and approaches with regards to ICT and digital services”.
A report from Camden echoed this sentiment, outlining that “long-standing core principles… are no longer shared and it is therefore no longer possible or practical to implement a shared service”.
The three boroughs launched the shared service in October 2016.
“The agreed principles of that service were that it should be a ‘high-trust’ model,” the Camden report said. “Operating with a fully integrated staffing model, and with an open-book, transparent operation, encompassing all areas of ICT and digital services, in which all three boroughs would be engaged.”
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In July of this year, this model was stripped back “to a ‘light’ model that focused on shared infrastructure”.
But three months into this less tightly integrated arrangement, it has been concluded that the shared service should be scrapped altogether. Affected staff will return to the employ of their parent borough, and most services that are currently shared will transition back to the individual authorities by the end of this month.
Camden, which has served “host authority” for the service, has overseen procurement of ICT and digital services for all three boroughs during the last two years.
The Haringey report said: “Work will be undertaken to ensure that, where appropriate, contracts are returned or novated to the respective boroughs. This will require some level of pragmatism, for instance, where a contract is due to end shortly after the implementation date of this change, it may be sensible to allow it to continue running. All renewals of existing, non-shared, contracts will be reverted to the appropriate borough with immediate effect.”
It added: “Although the termination of the project was not something which was sought by our borough, it does provide Haringey with more direct operational control of our ICT and digital services going forward.”
Despite the cessation of the shared-services partnership, both Camden and Haringey pointed to the successes of the arrangement during its two-year lifespan. The councils claim to have saved a cumulative £2.4m – £800,000 each – via sharing tech functions and procurement.
The agreement between the three authorities stipulates that terminating the shared service requires an 18-month notice period. But all parties have concluded that “the arrangement can, and should, be ended within three months”.
The Camden report leaves the door open for future collaboration, stating that the boroughs could “potentially cooperate on some procurement activities and contracts – as we do on a range of services as a matter of course”.
“Camden and Haringey may explore the potential for some joint working in the future,” it added.
PublicTechnology contacted all three boroughs requesting comment. Camden indicated that all relevant information was contained in the cabinet report. We were awaiting response from Haringey and Islington at time of going to press.