Courts service discloses £25m deal for ‘squads’ to improve Common Platform

CGI won three-year contract to support HM Courts and Tribunal Service in improving much-criticised system

The Ministry of Justice signed a three-year deal valued at £25m to provide “continuous improvement squads” to support HM Courts and Tribunals with its controversial Common Platform suite of digital services.

The deal with IT firm CGI started on 1 March and will run until 28 February 2026, according to newly published procurement information. Documents indicate that that the work delivered by the company may include DevOps, digital definition services, build and transition services, end-to-end development and data management and similar services. It did not include details of specific work.
The disclosure comes after HMCTS chief executive Nick Goodwin told MPs that the organisation is “making amends” and adapting its rollout of Common Platform to prioritise addressing legal advisers’ concerns.

Legal advisers and court associates ended months of strikes last week after their union, PCS, won assurances from HMCTS including taking action to combat Common Platform-related stress and anxiety.

Goodwin told MPs on 30 March that addressing legal advisers’ stress when using Common Platform is the organisation’s “number one priority”. “I am deeply concerned about those legal advisors that feel this is difficult for them,” he told the Public Accounts Committee.

He said the agency is focusing on legal advisers’ top five concerns about Common Platform and “going at that absolutely full tilt,” adding: “We realised this wasn’t just a technical issue – we needed to get things better for our legal advisors.”

In PCS’s announcement that it had agreed a deal to end strikes, it said HMCTS’s offer included a commitment to end “staff blame culture” over the IT system. Asked about this by PAC members, Ministry of Justice permanent secretary Antonia Romeo said: “I don’t know about that particular issue, but clearly there’s no place for a blame culture in any organisation.”

PCS has warned that it will continue its campaign to scrap the IT system, which is currently live in 78% of all criminal courts. Romeo – who said she is “delighted” the industrial action has ended – made it clear, however, that the system is here to stay.

Common Platform was initially supposed to be rolled out in all magistrates and crown courts by the end of March 2023 – with a contingency in place in the programme to extend this to December if needed. But the rollout target has now been delayed beyond this year.

Goodwin told MPs the rollout will be extended until March 2024 for some crown courts to avoid disrupting efforts to reduce the current backlog in hearings. Common Platform has been beset by delays due to development issues, the Covid-19 pandemic and technical issues – such as failing to send important notifications.

PublicTechnology staff

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