Councils are a great place to work in IT, says Socitm

Local authority IT departments are a great place to work if you are an IT professional looking to pick up a wide range of skills,...

Local authority IT departments are a great place to work if you are an IT professional looking to pick up a wide range of skills, according to officials at the Society of IT Management.

Speaking at Socitm's spring seminar in Essex last week, Fahri Zihni, the society's new president, said, "IT is a good place to work because it is such a broad industry. There are many different types of skills, whether they be programming, sales or strategy."

Zihni, the head of IT at Wolverhampton City Council, added that local government is responsible for delivering some 750 services, ranging from planning to schools. "There is no company that can provide the same range of services as offered by local government," he said.

Councils are currently working towards the government's 2005 deadline for delivering services electronically, which has helped push IT departments to the forefront of local government.

Outgoing Socitm president Jim Haslem said, "It has been clear for some time that IT is at the centre of the change agenda in local government.

"Service managers, senior managers and political leaders have fully acknowledged the importance of IT in making the changes government and the local community want."

Haslem, who is head of IT in the London borough of Bromley, said IT professionals are also shaking off their reputation as backroom boys. "In the past 18 months, a lot of the traditional barriers to how IT is perceived have just fallen away," he said.

Socitm recently produced research which highlighted the link between effective IT and excellence in local government. The society's study compared the government's comprehensive performance assessment of local authorities in England with previous reviews of councils' IT, such as the Best Value inspection programme.

It found that councils with an "above par" Best Value rating for IT are more likely to receive an "excellent" or "good" comprehensive performance assessment.

Socitm's research also revealed that those councils with a "below par" IT service have a 50% chance of a "weak" or "poor" assessment.

Zihni said, "I think this is the most challenging time to be working in local government - IT has the power to radically improve services."

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