ICT set to be outsourced

COUNCILLORS have backed officer recommendations to continue to outsource a council’s ICT contract.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s information and technology service has been outsourced since 2001 but the current arrangement is set to come to an end next September.

A number of options have been put forward including doing it in-house, private sector or sharing the ICT support with one or more other local authorities or public organisation.

Now members of the scrutiny co-ordinating committee have recommended the council pursue a new private sector contract, after the issue was referred from the cabinet committee.

Officers said outsourcing is the “safest and most robust” route, securing more savings.

They also warned bringing the service back in-house transfers all the risk back to the authority, including service failures and cost increases.

Proposals will now go back to cabinet and full council before a procurement process is launched.

Andrew Atkin, assistant chief executive, said: “We have tried to make members aware of all the available options.

“Our advice is that we should look to a private sector bid.”

Members were told it would cost £130,000 to complete the procurement to outsource the contract or £265,000 to carry out the procurement process for both outsourcing and doing it in-house.

Independent councillor Paul Thompson, portfolio holder for finance and corporate services, said an “extensive” amount of work had been done by officers to get to their recommendation.

Coun Thompson said: “I would find it very difficult to agree to an extra £135,000 in additional expenditure when we know it is going to be a waste of effort.”

Labour councillor Jim Ainslie said: “The proposals put forward have been made crystal clear.

“I have no hesitation in going with the officer’s recommendation.”

Labour councillor Marjorie James, chair of the scrutiny co-ordinating committee, said: “The recommendation that we are comfortable to move is to disregard the public/public and the in-house contract arrangement at this time and for the energy to be put into securing the best private sector outcome we can achieve.”

As part of the 2012-13 budget it had been planned to outsource the ICT, revenues and benefits services together in a move which could have saved the authority millions of pounds over the next seven years.

Mayor Stuart Drummond said it would have helped secure and create jobs, maintain and improve services, and retain a base in Hartlepool.

But the Labour group, supported by other councillors, could not agree the cabinet’s proposals due to the up front cost and concerns over privatising revenues and benefits.

That was on the back of concerns from scrutiny co-ordinating committee.

Instead it was agreed to keep ICT separate from revenues and benefits and give officers the opportunity to explore “all available” options for a new ICT contract.

The current agreement with Northgate supports 2,219 devices including 1,487 desktop PCs and 492 laptop and tablet PCs.

The council does not currently own its ICT infrastructure.