The last local authority in England, Scotland and Wales has connected to the Public Services Network (PSN) six months after the compliance deadline passed.
Telford & Wrekin Council in the West Midlands has finally joined the network, according to PSN’s interim CTO James Duncan. PSN aims to create a single ICT infrastructure for all UK public sector organisations.
The move means “every local authority and council across England, Scotland and Wales is now connected to the network”.
“Now, more than ever before, collaboration can take place and services can be shared between local authorities: from the Scottish Highlands to the Isle of Wight; from Great Yarmouth to Pembrokeshire,” Duncan said.
“For the past year or so, the team has been working with local authorities and councils across the country to move them onto the PSN and today marks and exciting milestone,” he wrote in a blog post.
‘Challenging’ compliance audit
The last compliance audit completed at the end of March and was particularly challenging as the Cabinet Office took over the process from CESG, increased the scope of the audit and introduced new controls and regulations.
Many councils were initially refused connection to PSN and a handful, including Telford & Wrekin, did not make the compliance deadline at the end of March this year.
Duncan said: “We’re not going to pretend it’s been an entirely smooth journey, but we’ve tried to listen and respond, and ultimately, work together as a community to resolve concerns and overcome issues.”
However Socitm recently highlighted a number of outstanding issues with the PSN compliance process that it said need to be resolved.
These issues centre “around remote access to data, use of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the sharing of data with non-PSN organisations when required”, according to Socitm president Nick Roberts.
The compliance audit process, which is undertaken every year to ensure public sector organisations reach certain standards for information security and assurance, is already well underway for this year, Roberts said in a post on the Socitm website.
‘Confident’ for this year
However, he added: “we can all be confident” that compliance will be easier to achieve this time round as “valuable lessons have been learnt from last year’s experience”.
“Steps have been taken to improve the governance arrangements for PSN to ensure our sector is able to influence decisions that impact on it and to maximise the exploitation of PSN,” he said.
For example he pointed to a ‘Local Government PSN Programme Board’ comprising representatives from both councils and central government, which has been set up to deal with compliance issues.
There has also been a management shake-up at the top of PSN in central government with the Government Digital Service (GDS) taking over responsibility for the programme in April from the Crown Commercial Service (CCS).
Andy Beale, GDS’ director of common technology services, is now in charge of the programme and has “restructured the PSN Team to place a stronger focus on delivering the business benefits of PSN, whilst ensuring compliance processes are undertaken in an engaging and appropriate manner”, Roberts said.
He added: “I hope this note reassures you that relevant activities are underway that will enable us all to follow a smoother path to compliance and exploitation of PSN, and that we have a plan as a sector to address the key challenges we all face.”