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Local councils will carry on splurging on IT

Outsourcing by to grow

Despite the recession Kable believes UK local government ICT budgets will rise to nearly £4bn by 2016.

Research by the publisher of GC News says that growth in technology spending will be driven by transformational outsourcing projects, online channels and mobile working.

Its Local Government Forecast: Opportunities in Austerity report, published on 17 August 2010, says that councils are favouring outsourcing over shared services. Although some authorities have outsourced only single functions, its research shows that since January 2007 there have been four times as many projects which outsource multiple functions as single functions.

"Councils have had to draft contracts so that efficiency savings are stated and measurable by both them and their supplier," said the report's author and Kable senior analyst Michael Larner.

"This shared risk and reward approach has meant that suppliers need to be confident of their ability to deliver, but also authorities need to be clear in articulating their requirements."

Kable forecasts that increases in IT and business process outsourcing will continue. Larner also believes that decisions about IT will no longer be the sole responsibility of IT managers, but will also involve finance directors and chief executives.

Although it acknowledges big differences in the quality of council websites, Kable expects both the delivery of services and citizen interaction to move online as it is cheaper.

It cites councils including Glasgow, which allows citizens to complete benefits applications online, and East Renfrewshire, where users can personalise the website according to their interests. "In future, council web sites could mimic iGoogle," said Larner.

The report says that in order to become more efficient councils will have to buy remote network access, portable PCs and accessible software applications for remote workers.

Local authorities have the largest mobile workforce in the public sector, estimated by Kable as 265,000 at present, potentially rising to 700,000, according to the report. Kable puts the number of flexible council workers at 530,000, and believes this could reach 1.2 million, mainly administrative and front line staff.

"The immediate future for local government ICT remains challenging, but innovative suppliers assisting in the delivery of tangible savings will still find a receptive audience among senior managers in local authorities," says Larner.

This article was originally published at Kable.

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