Birmingham tech leader hails return of innovation after exiting outsourced IT contract

Authority’s engagement with Capita comes to an end

Birmingham’s skyline  Credit: Tony Hisgett/CC BY 2.0

A top official at Birmingham City Council has spoken about the benefits the authority has seen from bringing back “in-house” services which had previously been outsourced. 

Speaking at the PublicTechnology Live event this week, Peter Bishop, director of digital and customer services at Birmingham City Council, said, “We’d lost control of our IT strategy and the way we used technology, in effect having outsourced it to a third party.” 

The remarks formed part of a presentation on the use of innovative technologies to better deliver services for citizens. 

Bishop said the council had, “fallen into a situation where a very well-managed and stable service was being delivered, but being delivered in a way that the target was then to exploit the council for revenue opportunities”.

This kind of relationship with third parties, as well as the “fast-moving digital age”, had led to “no innovation”, according to Bishop.

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In 2019, Birmingham City Council was reprimanded by the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel (BIIP). Shortly afterwards, it terminated its contract with Capita, which had provided services to the council for 13 years. 

A joint statement released at the time said: “Both organisations recognise that the change to this working arrangement is timely and appropriate.”

Some services provided by Capita on behalf of the council remained in place until the contract reached its planned expiry this month. 

At the time of the initial changeover, the council welcomed more than 300 additional staff, who had either been transferred from Capita or had their secondments there ended. 

“As we started the transition of the service back in-house we spent time looking at how the service was going to work, and step-changed our performance,” Bishop said. “We couldn’t do that without successfully changing mindsets.” 

He spoke of how, prior to the insourcing move, council aims like “engaging and shaping” were understood to be about “shaping sales opportunities, not about solving business problems”.

“The team had to listen, challenge, and re-earn the right to even do what they were doing before the transition.” 

The timing of the move, which happened largely in the latter end of 2019, meant that the council entered the period of coronavirus instability with a majority control over its ICT services. 

“The pandemic, in some respects, spurred on that innovation across the council. But we would never have responded as well as we did if we had not taken the time to get the values and behaviours right first,” Bishop said. 

“To successfully innovate, you really do need to change your mindset.” 


Sam Trendall

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