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Wakefield Council Plans To Save £1m Through Flexible Working

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

Wakefield is seeking to achieve significant cost savings by implementing tech for flexible working

Wakefield Council is aiming to save more than £1 million by installing technology that will allow for more flexible working practices by council workers.

Many councils are currently facing a tough efficiency targets from central government and budgets are under severe pressure.

Flexible Working

It seems that some Councils are seeking innovative ways to cost their operational costs. Alan Kirkham, Wakefield Council’s ICT service director told Computer Weekly that by the summer nearly 25 percent of their office-based staff will become flexible workers. In over the next two years, he expects this figure to rise to the 50 percent mark.

“We still have quite a long way to go with flexible working,” Kirkham said. “We want to look at all other services to see which ones could benefit the most from taking a more flexible approach.”

It is understood that Wakefield Council is currently undergoing a major hardware refresh and new technology will be introduced to allow for more flexible working practices. This includes implementing a telephone system that can follow the worker, whatever their location. Other technologies include unified communication and an electronic document system.

Wakefield Council home workers are using Citrix thin clients. Thin clients seem to be a popular option in local councils. In 2010 Solihull Council revealed it had begun shifting to thin clients to avoid expensive PC upgrades and cut its environmental footprint.

Wakefield staff will also be able to hotdesk, which means that the Council should theoretically save on property rental costs. It remains to be seen how councils will deal with the potential security issues that working away from secure office-environment entails. Siemens Enterprise Communications is working with the council to implement telephony mobility for hot-desk environments and unified communication.

“We have some dedicated homeworking, such as housing benefit assessors who go to applicants houses and assess them onsite using a tablet, assess them in-house and give them an immediate idea of their benefit entitlement,” Kirkham told Computer Weekly.

Lateral Thinking

Local government has long been urged to think laterally and investigate new ways to cut costs. Virtualisation for example encourages hot-desking and flexible working, as employees can work from any client device on the system, and so reap a financial saving.

In October 2011, air traffic control service provider NATS revealed it was piloting a new virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) using Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp, to reduce costs by £9 million over the next four years, shrink its carbon footprint and enable its 6,000 customers to work more flexibly.

Earlier this month Operation StepChange was launched, which was a four-day test of civil servants’ ability to work from home during the predicted chaos caused by the Olympics. It was the first of three “planning exercises” conducted in the run up to the Games, when staff across Whitehall and the public sector will be ordered not to commute to work for up to seven weeks.