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LGC View - IT outsourcing

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In the summer, when both Cornwall Council and Suffolk CC announced they intended to scale back their private sector deals for a range of services including IT, the question was asked whether the tide was turning against large outsourcing arrangements.

In the following agenda pages the argument is made against wholesale outsourcing and in favour of a mixed economy that would see local authorities retain key aspects of their IT capability in-house.

There are famous examples where IT outsourcing has gone horribly wrong, such as in Somerset where a row over savings and fees is heading to the law courts.

But there are less extreme examples of outsourcing proving counterproductive - we can probably all think of an authority whose website appears stuck in the 1990s following an outsourcing deal which has left the council unable to move with the times.

As Tom Steinberg argues (right), IT is no longer a peripheral activity for local government. He calls for councils to have a senior director who understands technology and how it can assist the business.

However, while some councils may have home-grown talent, many do not. These councils will have to look outside the sector where salaries for IT experts are higher than they may feel they can financially or politically pay in the current climate. And the inability to pay the going rate for IT expertise has of course been one of the arguments for large-scale outsourcing deals, which leaves councils with a difficult choice.

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