Sunday, 12 June 2011

Euphemism Alert: Code Red

RBKC Councillors and officers are on Euphemism Red Alert as Tri-Borough discussions become more pressing and more complex. Far from the blissful harmony we are led to believe the three Leaders and three Town Clerks enjoy, we are informed there is vigorous and immovable dissent, plus hard-wired personality clashes that promise behind-closed-doors fireworks. There is also growing concern about who will reap the benefit of the savings [cuts] if indeed there are any, and how these will be distributed.

It is a huge concern that the future of IT for the three Councils is a source of such confusion and disagreement. Local servers or cloud? In-house or out? On-shore or off? Which Business Groups can be sensibly aligned and which would be frankly idiotic? Once again the danger is of K&C Council accepting poor advice because there are so few who understand the issues, but instead have been programmed by hard core IT consultants pitching for the work so that that when they hear the word *clouds* their eyes light up and their brains switch off.

Gentlemen, for the sake of clarity please note: a cloud is just a big computer somewhere else, probably in Slough.

Without sufficient forethought – space to think – more thought – planning in detail – space to think – yet more thought and planning, they could end up with a system more complex to use, needing constant back-up and regular re-training for end users. In short, a system that is not fit for purpose and is hugely expensive. For example, the two, count’em two IT companies providing computing services for Council housing are, to put it politely, in the early stages of production and are very expensive as virtually everything is customised and there is so little competition in this field. And let us remember the very sad case of the super-duper FireControl IT system that was to save a fortune by replacing 46 call-centres with just 9 nationwide, but encountered such intractable technical problems that it has been ditched, with £40m written off. Can we please wait for the second generation?

We are probably safe from being outsourced off-shore because of security concerns, but it will in all likelihood mean that Capita will benefit again from Council contracts, in which case former boss Ron Aldridge could contribute far more to the North Ken Academy.

There are certainly services within the three boroughs which it is absolutely appropriate to review and make more efficient, which may or may not come about working with two other boroughs. Are Cabinet Members sufficiently knowledgeable to make these decisions? What is certain is that the wrong decisions on IT could wipe out any savings for many years to come.


  1. If it's any help, the Venture Centre is still using the Cash Received and Credit Control system which I adapted/wrote for them in 1998. That was written using basic knowledge of Microsoft Access. Let the 3 stick with what they've got for now. It's the type of information that counts so getting that consistent is a prerequisite to any merging of the data.

  2. Thanks Ziggy, we need that kind of clear thinking now, rather than getting over-excited by magic beans.


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