Socitm backs call for £1bn funding boost for local council ICT

Public sector IT directors’ organisation Socitm has thrown its weight behind calls for a billion pound government cash injection to help local councils cut ICT costs.

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Public sector IT directors’ organisation Socitm has thrown its weight behind calls for a billion pound government cash injection to help local councils cut ICT costs.

The proposal, originally made last week by IT supplier Logicalis, has won support from Socitm, which believes the funding would deliver significant benefits for councils, NHS and education organisations.

Logicalis claims that the government would see a return on investment (ROI) on its £1 billion pounds in three years through the scheme, and would eventually triple its payback. It is calling for the scheme to be introduced under the next budget in April, so that councils can quickly overcome initial investment hurdles and cut costs.

The package of measures would aim to support the replacement of existing ICT systems with more efficient systems, local shared service projects, and other schemes including datacentre consolidation. Local authorities would have to create a business case demonstrating a three-year return on investment.

Half a billion pounds should be allocated to datacentre virtualisation and consolidation, and a quarter of a billion pounds to shared service investments, Logicalis' proposal said. Some £150 million should be allocated to local broadband unbundling and £100 million to self service contact centres, said the proposal.

Local councils had difficulty finding the large amounts of money needed to deliver cost cutting improvements, Socitm said, and the cash pot could enable them to deliver the changes needed for long term efficiency gains. The government claims the Gershon review has so far saved £23 billion in costs.

Central government has its own £35 billion efficiency plan, in which it will cut spending on IT, lawyers and consultants, and make changes to back-office operations and personnel.

"The opportunities that can be created by a positive government response ... are significant,” said Steve Palmer, senior VP at Socitm, adding that councils are struggling to do “more and more for less” in the back office as resources are moved to front line services. A particular difference could be made in ICT infrastructure, he said.

The “most common problem faced by Socitm's members is the ability to create the initial resources and capacity to invest to deliver the improvements and efficiencies these opportunities offer”, he added.

The Department for Communities and Local Government did not have an immediate response to the proposal at the time of writing.