No change over ICT

PLANS to continue outsourcing a council’s ICT contract have finally been agreed.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee agreed to outsource after the proposal was backed by the scrutiny co-ordinating committee.

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 has now been agreed to pursue a new private sector contract.

The proposals will go to the full council for funding approval for the £130,000 procurement process.

Officers have always 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.

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.

Independent councillor Paul Thompson, portfolio holder for finance and corporate services, said: “I don’t think we have any other option than to go down the private sector only route.”

Cabinet members were told last year’s plans to outsource services cost between £45,000 and £50,000 in external support. But councillors said it was a different process this year and could still generate “significant” long term savings.

Independent councillor Cath Hill, portfolio holder for children’s and community services, asked if private firms would be put off for tendering again as it is an “expensive business”.

Andrew Atkin, assistant chief executive, said: “We have flagged that up as a potential risk.

“But we are aware from contact with a number of big players in the market that they are tracking this.

“It is a significant contract and a significant piece of work for a potential provider.”

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.