Thomas Bridge 08 April 2015

ICT report describes urgent need to improve ‘poor service’ at council

A report has slammed a council’s ICT department, warning of ‘poor service’, a lack of strategy and a failure to engage with customers.

Scottish Borders Council is now undertaking a review into the service that could lead to greater involvement of private sector providers.

Analysis of the town hall department warned there was a now an ‘urgent’ need to transform ICT.

It said there was currently ‘no council wide ICT strategy’ or leadership model to deal with important decisions.

Both customer service and the department’s communications were branded ‘poor’, with council said to be facing emails ‘that are too technical’.

Recently purchased ICT tools are ‘not being sufficiently utilised’ and investment corporate systems ‘cannot be delivered’ with current systems, the report added.

It also warned the council ‘finds it difficult to hire the staff with the required skills’, with local technical skills being ‘drawn to large private sector organisations with higher salary packages’.

Scottish Borders plans to decide on a new ICT plan in October that will assess how services can be delivered in the future.

Cllr Michael Cook, executive member for HR and corporate improvement at the council said: ‘We value the commitment and hard work of our staff. At the same time we believe this service can become even stronger. That's why we are taking time to consider in some detail each element of the service. As part of this exercise, we will market test the technical elements of our ICT service.

‘There is strong evidence that Scottish Borders Council would be able to take advantage of industry knowledge more quickly, access new skills, take advantage of economies of scale and benefit from a relationship with a private sector ICT service provider,’ he added.

A joint statement from trade unions GMB, Unite and Unison on the ICT strategy said that they would ‘never support outsourcing’ but ‘do believe the inclusion of our members in this now detailed review through workshops is a more positive step for our ICT members.

‘Our members have been vocal in telling Scottish Borders Council management that they can deliver what is required. It is now up to Scottish Borders Council management to work with us and actually be clear to our members about what they need. We look forward to open and constructive dialogue on this issue over the next few months,’ the trade unions added.

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