Aylesbury and Dacorum councils to share IT services to cut costs

Bucks and Herts authorities’ IT alliance expects to make long-term savings

Aylesbury Vale district council is to share IT services with Dacorum borough council to help generate savings and create improved and more resilient systems.

The two councils already have a memorandum of understanding in place to join forces and deliver IT services under a new ICT partnership agreement, with the move due to be finalised by the end of this year.

The partnership aims to improve service delivery, save money and support transformational change within each organisation to help both councils cope with reduced government funding and yet greater demand for local services in .

By sharing resources and expertise, the two councils hope the partnership will enable their IT solutions to be delivered more efficiently and effectively, as well as offering the possibility of more widespread sharing of work between the organisations.

According to Aylesbury Vale, the partnership is expected to deliver savings in the longer term over a three to five year timeframe. It does not expect any short-term savings in the partnership. The council said it can’t predict what the long-term savings might be until both councils have developed an inter authority agreement.

A cabinet report states that at the end of the year the organisations will merge and operate as a single service managed by Aylesbury Vale’s head of IT Alan Evans.

“It is not anticipated that there will be any cost or staff savings at that point from the joint operation. During the period covered by the memorandum of understanding it is not intended that any staff will transfer (on secondment/Tupe) between the organisations,” according to Aylesbury Vale.

Aylesbury Vale is also planning to move its finance, procurement, human resources and payroll operations into the cloud, with staff’s usual desktop applications such as email, calendar, documents and word processing now being accessed via a web browser.

The council hopes that a reduction in the need for local storage and server space will lead to a decrease in the council’s carbon footprint as well as in its bills. The cloud-based system will also benefit the proposed IT partnership as both authorities will be able to access the same systems without needing to create a complex new IT infrastructure, according to the authority.

Councillor Neil Blake, cabinet member for resources at Aylesbury Vale, said: “We’ve been looking very carefully at what Dacorum has to offer to meet our needs and it could provide substantial savings in the long-term with additional benefits including improved service resilience and access to a wider set of skills and experience.”

Dacorum had initially expressed an interest in an arrangement in which Aylesbury Vale would provide IT services to Dacorum based on a service level agreement. However, the option was considered ‘high risk’ by Aylesbury officers as the amount of change required in Dacorum’s IT service would make it difficult for Dacorum and Aylesbury Vale to agree the level of service that would ultimately be required.

Councillor Andrew Williams, leader of Dacorum borough council, said: “This opportunity to work together can bring real benefits for both councils, offering savings, improvements and efficiencies for our services. I hope that we can develop a partnership that will help us achieve our common ambitions for ICT.”

Michael Larner, senior analyst at public sector market intelligence firm Kable, said the move was an interesting acknowledgment that some district councils won’t be able to generate savings by themselves as they are too small.

“That is despite initiatives earlier this year by Aylesbury Vale to adopt a software-as-a-service approach in back office services plus mobile working in the housing directorate. It is likely that we can expect a expansion in the scope of these projects,” he added.

This article is published by Guardian Professional. For weekly updates on news, debate and best practice on public sector IT, join the Guardian Government Computing network here.

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