Stop whingeing about money, councils told

Speaking at the Spring Seminar of the public sector user group Socitm, David Henshaw told delegates radical reform is needed if e-government is to work.

‘There are huge possibilities in cost reduction and incremental improvement is not acceptable anymore. E-government won’t stand the test of time if we just look at small scale incremental improvements,’ he said.

Henshaw cited Liverpool’s example of overhauling its services using technology to bring cash savings, improve the council’s performance and a reduction in council tax for citizens.

In the last three years the council has gone from third bottom of the performance league table to eighth, has cut £105m a year of its cost base and introduced a three per cent reduction in council tax.

One of the projects that contributed to this was the integration of nine human resources departments and eight payroll systems that Henshaw described as ‘a complete shambles’.

The departments have been centralised and use an integrated Oracle HR and Payroll system and call centre and a ‘frequently asked questions’ page on the council’s intranet.

‘It gives one version of the truth instead of nine and is taking £2.5m annualised cost out of this service,’ said Henshaw.

An e-procurement system has also cut the number of suppliers used from 17,000 to 5,000 leading to annual spending savings of £5m.

The view was backed by John Mahoney, research director at analyst Gartner, who told delegates not to be blinkered by just cost savings.

‘It is not primarily about saving money in the existing way of doing things but an opportunity to redesign those mechanisms and structures.’

IT managers should set targets that reflect increased service levels, reductions in operational costs and political return, he said.

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