Essex County Council scraps £1.2 million-worth of IT deals

Budget cuts to blame

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Essex County Council has cancelled contract tenders for IT projects worth over £1 million in total.

“Unforeseen” changes in “budget” and “circumstances” were cited as the reasons for the cancellations.

Essex County Council has been under fire for its multi-billion-pound outsourcing deal with IBM. The deal was championed by Lord Hanningfield, the council leader who was forced to resign amidst the MPs expenses scandal.

The local authority had been looking for bidders for two contracts, for computer support and consultancy services, and software and information systems. These were valued at up to £317,250 and £881,250, respectively.

In cancelling the computer support contract tender, Essex County Council said: “Due to unforeseen circumstances the current scope of the project is being reconsidered”.

The aim of this three-year project was to develop an area prospectus, a single, web-based hub that holds information about the available educational courses and work-based learning available in a certain area.

Essex County Council was procuring for the creation of this hub and a common application process with a single sign-on alongside Southend Borough Council and Thurrock Council. The service would have been used by around 170 schools, colleges and work-based learning providers in the areas covered by the local authorities.

Meanwhile, the software and information systems tender, which was cancelled about two weeks ago, was scrapped because “unforeseen changes in the available budget” meant that the “current scope of the project is unobtainable”.

This contract was for an information management system, that would collate and analyse local data and combine it with geographical information to provide reports about the “Essex neighbourhood” to “improve the effectiveness across the crime and disorder arena”. The contract was due to last five years, with an option to extend a further five years.

In December 2009, Essex County Council signed an eight-year agreement with IBM to transform its operations and services, and slash costs. It is expected to eventually cost between £2.3 billion and £5.4 billion, dependent upon the services procured.

The council has been criticised for the scale of the project. Essex last November suggested it had learnt lessons from previous outsourcing contracts, possibly including an aborted deal with BT, and that flexibility and clear break clauses were built-in to the IBM deal.

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