Socitm: Public sector ICT needs to rethink efficiency strategy


Declining levels in efficiency savings, increased pressure to help reduce cost without compromising service levels, and falling budgets, highlighted in Socitm’s IT trends in local public services report.

Socitm, the Society of IT Managers which represents ICT executives in the local government sector, has published its annual report into IT trends amongst public sector services. The 2009/10 report highlights the daunting challenges facing ICT managers as they come under increased pressure to deliver cost efficiencies. The report, Stretched to breaking point, predicts a greater dependency on ICT within the sector in the coming years, (a symptom of reduced “belt-tightening” budgets) and calls for a “radical rethink about how technology can be exploited for the public’s benefit.”

Whilst ICT within the public sector is increasingly coming under pressure, Socitm’s report suggests the amount of resource spent has significantly decreased in the past twelve months. Negativity permeates through many areas of the report: cuts to staffing levels are already impacting on service levels; planned shared service projects are now stalling; efficiency savings are on the decline; and the biggest challenge facing ICT managers on a local government level is the need to “do more with less.”

What’s more, a table breaking down ICT resources available to authorities across the country shows a stark difference at local government level. For instance, ICT budgets at Scottish unitary authorities stand at £13m, have over 10,500 computers in use, and 121 ICT employees – that’s 87 computers for every ICT employee. On the other hand, the ICT budget at Northern Irish districts stand at £6m, have 802 computers, and 38 ICT employees – that’s just 21 computers for every ICT employee.

Furthermore, the report forecasts the number of ICT staff employed within the public sector will fall by around 3,000. This fall comes during a period of more innovative use of technology by the sector, with the report pointing towards a trend of increased use of mobile technology and home working. Such innovations are at the crux of internal efficiency measures for many organisations, with ICT managers turning to virtualisation, the Cloud, and improved service management, to streamline operations and facilitate the change being demanded of them. According to the Socitm survey, local government authorities are expected purchase less than in 2008, with employees increasingly using aging technology.

The report also challenges the government’s G-Cloud initiative. Besides its misgivings about the creation of the ‘government cloud’, a key concern of the report is the pace of the change; is it happening fast enough? “In reality,” the report states, “our respondents are suffering from the perennial pressures of funding cuts alongside increased demand and are under greater pressure than ever.”

“I think Socitm’s report is a timely warning shot about the negative impact continued lack of investment in IT will have on the ability to make further cost reductions in local authority spending,” responds Sift Media’s market analyst arm, K2 Advisory. “For example, look at the G-cloud initiative: it is critical that local authorities invest now in assessing the types of information they have to manage so that some can safely be delivered at greatly reduced cost from the public cloud. But investment needs to be made in that review process in 2010 to save money going forward.”


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