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Council to connect hundreds of its sites through wide area network

Local authorities invest in networking and contact centre technology through IT outsourcing contracts

Cheshire East Council is working with technology service provider Capita to build a wide area network (WAN) to connect more than 500 public services sites.

The £8m, five-year contract will see council, school, fire service and police operations in the county connected by the network, which is part of the government’s £5bn Network Services 2 framework.

The Cheshire Next Generation WAN (CNGW) is designed to provide better connectivity between buildings, datacentres and improve and secure internet and cloud access. It will also make it easier for collaboration between different locations and enable resource-sharing, which will reduce costs.

Cheshire East Council ICT Services will manage the network, which will also be used by Cheshire Constabulary and Cheshire Fire and Rescue.

The network will also be part of a project to provide town centre Wi-Fi to residents and businesses, initially in Chester.

Separately, Enfield Council in north London has extended its work with software supplier Civica by adding two years to a contact centre deal signed in 2017.

The deal covers software on Civica’s cloud-enabled platform for revenues and benefits processing, business rates collection, single person discount reviews and adult social care financial assessments. The software helps the council resolve citizen inquiries at first contact.

Enfield Council said technology upgrades had helped it increase its council tax collection rate to 98% in 2019/20, boosting its income by about £1.2m.

Read more about public sector networks

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  • Managed network services provider MLL Telecom has been awarded the EastNet contract to run WAN services across Cambridgeshire, replacing a legacy Virgin Media Network.

Geoff Waterton, head of collection services at Enfield Council, said it was difficult to understate the challenges faced by local government, with a decade of austerity followed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Maintaining up-to-date benefits, council tax and business rate processing and easy, quick access to specialist telephone advice and support has been essential to sustain tenancies, maximise revenues, mitigate the impact of welfare reform and manage the increasing demands of Universal Credit and reducing arrears,” he said.

“Enfield used to rely heavily on temporary agency staff to support services, but using Civica has eliminated the need for expensive agency staffing.”

Mark Lewis, specialist IT outsourcing lawyer, said most public sector outsourcing is currently on hold amid Covid-19. “It was going strongly before the lockdown, but it remains to be seen how strongly it comes back,” he said.

“You would think there will be no alternative to outsourcing for local authorities, which are under huge cost pressure.”

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