SOCITM (Society of Information Technology Management)
Printable version

Socitm refutes criticism of councils for 'wasting millions' by ‘ignoring government IT cloud’

Socitm has issued a strong rebuttal of press reports published by the BBC and Computer Weekly earlier this week, based on research by Bull compiled from FoI requests to county councils. 

The reports, claiming councils were 'wasting millions' by 'not using the G-Cloud', show poor understanding of how local councils procure and deploy IT, says Socitm

Bull’s data suggests that in 2012-13, county councils spent nearly £440m in total on IT services, including staffing costs, but that only £385,000, or 1% of that was going through the government's "G-Cloud" framework.

Socitm does not dispute the data about the proportion of spending going through G-Cloud, but challenges the conclusions being drawn from it on the following grounds: 

  • Media reports based on Bull’s figures suggest that by not using G-cloud, councils are forgoing savings from using cloud services. This overlooks the fact that G-Cloud is a procurement framework, not a "cloud" in the sense generally understood of a service whereby software can be rented and hosted off site. Consequently low use of G-Cloud does not correlate with low use of cloud services, and indeed many councils are using cloud services from via other procurement frameworks or procured directly from vendors like Google.
     
  • Much of the software used by local authorities to support key lines of business, for example systems to support planning, housing or social care services, is not available on the G-Cloud
     
  • The single year snapshot produced by Bull does not capture significant 'one off' spending via G-Cloud - for example that made by Hampshire County Council in 2011-12, when it was one of G-Cloud's biggest users
     
  • Large local authorities (individually, county councils are among the largest local authorities) have significant in-house capability to provide IT infrastructure and services, a route that for some services can be more cost-effective that buying-in external services, even cloud-based services
     
  • Local government IT functions, supported by a range of organisations including Socitm, routinely use benchmarking to compare costs of acquiring and deploying IT. These practices are generally accepted as being responsible for the much lower costs of IT in local government than in central government. Evidence presented by Socitm to the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) inquiry Good Governance: the effective use of IT in 2011, showed that while spending of 3% of total revenue on IT is generally accepted as a benchmark of good practice in the private sector, local authorities’ recent averages were 2.33%, while central government departments’ were thought to be (in the absence of any evidence from equivalent benchmarking activity) at least 5%.

So, whilst local government is making less use of the G-cloud framework than its central government counterparts, that is partly because the G-Cloud (and the Government Digital Service) was established primarily to address problems with central government IT procurement and deployment practice. The PASC inquiry report said that central government’s over-reliance on large contractors for IT needs, and a lack of in-house skills, had created a ‘recipe for rip-offs’.

While local government has to date made less use of the G-Cloud that its central government counterparts, it has engaged with the programme from its inception and played a significant role in G-Cloud creation and implementation.

Socitm research suggests that G-Cloud may not always offer the most cost effective solution for councils. Kent County Council told Socitm that: ‘We have used the G-cloud to procure some software, but it is not currently able to offer the time savings, quality assurances and consistency necessary to make it effective. We have raised these issues with the Cabinet Office and believe that until these are addressed, the G-cloud does not offer the best route for sourcing software for local authorities.’ 

According to Martin Ferguson, Director of Policy & Research at Socitm: ‘G-Cloud is already a useful procurement framework. However it is still in its relative infancy, as is cost effective public cloud provision for use in councils more generally. What will make the G-cloud increasingly attractive will be the flexibility to use it in ways which deliver best value and sustainable IT architectures fit for the future, especially where these impact on councils’ increasing need to join-up and deliver services with partners in Health, Police, Voluntary and other sectors. It is also the case that the biggest beneficiaries of cloud computing, and G-cloud as a procurement vehicle, are likely to be the smaller public service organisations which were not covered in the FOI research carried out by Bull.’

Further information

Martin Ferguson, Director of Policy & Research, Socitm

Tel: 07931 456 238  e-mail: martin.ferguson@socitm.net

Vicky Sargent, Socitm Press Office

Tel: 07726 601 139  e-mail: vicky.sargent@socitm.net

Channel website: https://www.icaew.com

Share this article

Latest News from
SOCITM (Society of Information Technology Management)

Public Sector Cyber Security beyond the PSN - OnDemand