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Majority Of Local Councils Now ‘Share Services’

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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Tight budgets sees almost all local councils in the UK sharing services including IT and other services

Nearly all local councils in the UK are sharing services with their fellow authorities as the pressure on the public purse string continues to be tightened.

The shared services include IT services such as telephony systems, IT support, and resident data in customer relationship management (CRM) systems, right through to more life-changing services such as adoption management, disaster recovery and mentoring young people.

More, With Less

Citrix made the discovery after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to 433 local councils across the UK (314 organisations responded). The requested revealed that 89 percent of local authorities across the UK now share services, after 279 confirmed they do collaborate with other organisations to provide services (35 of councils stated they do not share services).

In the Autumn for example, Islington and Camden Councils unveiled proposals to merge their ICT services by April 2016 to save £4 million a year.

Nottingham Council HouseIt is no secret that local councils are facing increasing challenges due to budgetary pressures. Indeed, UK councils are currently half way through a scheduled 40 percent reduction in funding from central government. Councils have to achieve £10 billion of savings in the next two years, after they already delivered £10 billion in savings during the three year period from 2011/12.

It seems that sharing services with their fellow local councils will likely form a key part of their strategy to achieve these cost savings.

Citrix provided the example of three Kent councils, which opted to share IT services as part of a four-year goal to save £2.7m. Canterbury, Dover and Thanet District Councils consolidated their three separate IT systems into one shared mobile workspace via East Kent Services (EKS), a shared services provider for customer services, income and payments.

Citrix said this was underpinned by virtualisation, but allowed for the creation of a “more efficient IT infrastructure”, which allowed the councils “to deliver a faster and improved experience for users, while also improving internal efficiency for staff and reducing costs.”

“This research demonstrates local authorities’ commitment to providing first-class services for residents and visitors, even against the backdrop of continued funding cuts,” said Jason Tooley, UK & Ireland country manager at Citrix. “With more reductions on the horizon, councils need to innovate to deliver vital services, resulting in an increasingly complex landscape of shared services.”

And he pointed out that the shared services approach is being increasingly recognised by councils as a way to save costs, but also improve frontline services.

“While most councils are already seeing the value of sharing services, there is an opportunity to simultaneously transform the workplace and deliver enhanced frontline services,” said Tooley. “As the reliance on this vast network of shared services grows and inevitably becomes more integral to service delivery, it is critical that employees can work productively wherever they may be.”

TechweekEurope approached the public sector union Unison for comment, but it did not respond at the time of writing.

In August privacy campaigners warned that citizens’ private information is not safe with local government following 4,236 separate data breaches by authorities between 2011 and 2014. Big Brother Watch’s report called for stiffer penalties – including prosecution for the most serious offences – and better training to prevent future breaches from occurring.

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