Newcastle upon Tyne City Council has begun cutting its back-office staffing levels, after replacing its core IT systems and moving to a service oriented architecture.
The council’s overhaul of its systems and business processes, which it started two-and-a-half years ago, will enable back-office jobs to be cut by 20% by October, with the headcount expected to fall to 560 from 700 without any compulsory redundancies.
The reduced headcount will cut the council’s back-office costs from £22.5m to £19m.
Council leaders said the new infrastructure meant Newcastle was well placed to tackle a proposed electronic social care records project.
“Electronic social care records is the biggest transformational project in local government,” said Ray Ward, heads of the council’s city service, which has responsibility for back-office functions.
Ward said the council would begin work on moving to electronic social care records this month, when its two social services departments had finalised details of their requirements from the system.
In 2003, Newcastle decided to adopt an SOA based on IBM Websphere, after managers realised that they were in danger of creating a mass of point-to-point connections as legacy applications were replaced.
Ward said, “The reason we decided to go down the SOA route was that we were putting in all this technology using point-to-point connections. We decided we needed to move from interfacing to integrating, since we were putting in things that would last for a few years.”
IT managers had already gone live with a new human resources and payroll system from SAP when the SOA was implemented in June last year.
Further applications were then deployed within the SOA, including an SX3 system for housing management, which went in during the second half of last year; a document management system; and a second SX3 application, called i-World, to manage revenues and benefits. In addition, a new engine for online payments has cut the average response time to payment queries from three days to three minutes.
Fujitsu Services has been the council’s systems integrator since the project began in late 2003.
Contact centre to pilot 101 service
Newcastle upon Tyne City Council’s recently installed customer contact centre will be one of the pilot centres for the government’s single national non-emergency number for contacting public services, when testing begins this summer.
The 30-seat contact centre, which went live in March, will receive a proportion of all the calls made to the number from callers in Northumberland.
England’s northernmost county will be among the first areas to go live with the number. By 2008, the plan is that anyone in the UK will be able to dial 101 to make non-emergency calls to public services, such as the police.
A virtual contact centre will route calls in Northumberland to the different contact centres, which will include Newcastle City Council, neighbouring Sunderland City Council and the local police force.
New IT systems will enable Newcastle’s call-centre workers to answer queries about the services provided by other public sector bodies in the region.
Hampshire and South Wales will also be piloting the number.