PracticeAuditAudit Commission slams Stockport’s IT

Audit Commission slams Stockport's IT

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council's information and communication technology services have been given a roasting by the Audit Commission's best value inspectors.

The Commission’s inspection team rated the authority’s ICT provision as ‘poor’ following the assessment during May last year.

“The service did not have a clear set of aims and challenging targets designed to improve the service; there was no agreed ICT strategy in place, linked with the business needs of the Council,” the report said.

Years of under investment in the borough’s IT capability were blamed for low end-user satisfaction with IT support, major problems with network capacity and frustrations with specific software products.

‘We found a striving, reactive service, which had been constantly ‘fire fighting’ and, due to under investment, had been unable to fully meet the Council’s emerging needs,’ the inspectors concluded.

Stockport’s ICT budget is £5.6m and the service employs the equivalent of 60 full-time staff in central ICT support and 53 staff in departmental roles.

This provides IT systems and support for the departments at Stockport Town Hall, 80 remote offices and 120 schools.

The services include mainframe computer applications, support for specific PC software applications, technical support to 1600 workstations, communication and network services, email, intranet and internet services and the council telephone system.

The Commission is satisfied however that Stockport has put in place measures to improve the service.

An improvement plan has been identified to help Stockport achieve the ‘Beacon’ standard of service and IT has been given a higher corporate profile with the creation of the new strategic post of corporate head of IT.

The Commission has also made several recommendations. These include:

  • Council should review ICT strategy every two years
  • Negotiate service level agreements with departments
  • Improve communication with end users
  • Impact analysis to ensure new applications do not adversely affect the performance and reliability of existing systems
  • Integrate helpdesks and standardise recording and monitoring systems

    A spokesman for Stockport MBC said the report was old and improvements were already well under way.

    ‘The inspection reports on the state of the ICT service at a point in time, many months ago. We knew we were not strong in that area – what matters most is the fact we have properly identified our weaknesses and we are immediately setting about putting them right.’

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