Peter Ryder, head of ICT at Preston City Council, has been appointed president of the Society of IT Management (Socitm) in a year that should establish how far councils have to share services between each other and the rest of the public sector.
Ryder, who has been head of ICT at Preston since 1985, took over the leadership of the local government IT managers group at its spring conference last week.
Socitm members, including Birmingham City Council IT director Glyn Evans and Hampshire County Council IT director Jos Creese, sit on the CIO Council, which will contribute towards the government’s plans for shared services.
Ryder said, “Unless council leaders produce a really good business case [for shared services], they will not necessarily produce a good service for the citizens, and it could end up being a financial fiasco.”
Every part of the public sector, including local government, has been charged with drafting a sector plan by November to share services between different public sector bodies.
“We would all agree there is potential in going down the shared services route, but it might not deliver what we want,” Ryder said.
He identified councils’ existing long-term contracts with both software providers and outsourcing suppliers as areas that had been “grossly overlooked” in central government’s emphasis on shared services.
Ryder’s appointment as Socitm president comes 18 months after the Office of Government Commerce said that open source was a viable alternative to proprietary systems. Although the report was positive about open source, local authorities’ use of Microsoft systems has increased since November 2004.
“I am disappointed that open source has not taken off more. Local authorities are a bit risk averse. Unless the big players go down that road, councils will not follow in droves,” said Ryder.