Local Government does IT better and cheaper

I have spent much of the past week helping review material for submissions to the Public Administration Select Committee enquiry. I have also done one of my own to cover points not likely to be made by others. Yesterday, however, I took time out to review the latest IT Trends report from SOCITM, so that I could comment (at the press launch). I read the benchmarking section was struck by how much less local authorities spend for equivalent products and services – e.g. cost of ownership for a PC workstation . It led me to ponder what poor value for money central government gets from most of its framework agreements, let alone its outsourcing and PFI deals.     

The need is not for centralised procurement but for a market in procurement services. This is particularly so when schools, for example, are being cut adrift.

I  was also intrigued by the way in which Councils are expected to disclose all spend over £500 while Cabinet Office is negotiating behind closed doors with its Top 19 ICT suppliers. When will the NHS contracts, the Hospital PFIs as well as the NPfIT contracts be put into the public domain. I understand the need for commercial confidentiality while a competitive procurement is under way but afterwards ….?   

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"Local Government does IT better and cheaper" -- they couldn't do it any worse. Whitehall's incompetence is beyond a joke now.

Have you seen what Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, is saying? She is quoted in the FT as follows:


“Neither ministers nor senior officials make longer-term decisions with any sense that the consequences of their actions can ever come back to haunt them,” Margaret Hodge, recently elected chair of the Public Accounts Committee and herself a former Labour minister, said on Thursday.

“It is as if there is an unwritten rule that failures in big government are inevitable, and it would be unfair to penalise any one individual for any particular decision,” she told a meeting at the Institute for Government.

“The trouble with such an approach is that it encourages irresponsible and poor value decision making,” she said ...


In some distress, I imagine, Tony Collins has found himself advocating open source. You want to alter the arrangements for top-level domain names. You both know that that's no solution. It's fiddling while Rome burns.

In my submission to PASC, I recommend that senior Whitehall officials must be elected. It must be possible to vote them out. Everything else has been tried. Including open source. Something much more radical is required.

I'm an outsider. John Suffolk is an insider. Until he leaves in March. His testimony will have more weight than mine. He believes that the top 200 posts in Whitehall should be put out to open competition.