Council to spend £80k on contract

COUNCILLORS have agreed plans to spend £80,000 on one-off costs of outsourcing a major ICT contract.

Plans by Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee to outsource the ICT contract were finally agreed back in July, after the proposal was backed by the scrutiny co-ordinating committee.

Now the full council has agreed to support cabinet’s proposals to allocate £80,000 to fund the one-off costs of the procurement exercise.

They include technical and bid support, legal and financial advice.

The 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 had been put forward including doing it in-house, continuing with the private sector or sharing the ICT support with one or more other local authorities or public organisation, known as public/public.

But it was agreed by cabinet to pursue a new private sector contract.

Independent councillor and cabinet member Paul Thompson presented the report to full council, which has been discussed by both cabinet and scrutiny co-ordinating members.

Coun Thompson said: “It was clear from the scrutiny co-ordinating committee discussion that members wished to disregard the public/public and in-house contract options at the current time with the aim of securing the best outcome to be achieved through a private sector arrangement.”

Coun Thompson, portfolio holder for finance and corporate services, added: “The savings will run into millions of pounds. I ask council to approve cabinet’s proposals.”

The money will come from within departmental under spends within the chief executive’s office.

The proposals were approved, despite concerns raised by Labour councillor Robbie Payne who argued further money could be saved by bringing it in house.

Coun Payne said: “Once you give it out to a private company, it ain’t coming back.”

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

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

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.

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.