Councils are doing their best with limited funds

News Analysis

Councils are doing their best with limited funds

Arif Mohamed

Although Leeds has been able to substantially overhaul its IT, many local authorities have struggled to secure funding for IT projects, and make do with what they can get hold of, said public sector IT managers association Socitm.

Leeds City Council is running about nine major, concurrent IT projects. The main IT upgrade programme has eight "workstreams". These include building a datacentre, upgrading key networking infrastructure, replacing and updating 11,000 desktops, and overhauling 300 applications.

Leeds Council programme manager Martin Jones said the IT department also has a major task to upgrade its contact centres, which is being funded as a discrete project separate from the others.

Socitm president Angela Waite, head of ICT at Canterbury City Council, said, "I think very few are in the position of Leeds to have the funding to achieve all this. Leeds has had additional funding by being part of certain national projects.

"Most local authorities have had to deal with the problems based on the funding they have had available. Local priorities have dominated what they have done. In the case of Canterbury, we used our funding to replace the Lan and the Wan."

Waite said local authority IT directors were not taking shortcuts, such as putting web front ends onto obsolete systems, so they could claim to have met targets. "They have used the funding they have had to do the best job they can," she said.

Waite urged the government to continue funding IT projects. "There is lots of work to be done in the back office. We have to do a robust job at all levels of the IT infrastructure. We do not have the resources to implement the systems to make the changes we would like to - especially at district level," she said.

But Waite praised local authorities that have done their best with the funding they have managed to secure.

"Most authorities have been able to make a start. We have almost put the infrastructure in place. Lots of local authorities have put in CRM and content management to make best of their websites. Now is the time to take stock of what we have done and see where investment will need to be made."

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