Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Liverpool City Councillors IT equipment "out of the ark"

A couple of weeks ago I was in the Labour Councillors office in the Municipal Buildings, where we have 4 computers between 39 of us. I was between meetings and thought I would catch up on my council emails and casework - which I usually access from an old-lap top I inherited from Jimmy Kendrick when I defeated him at the ballot box in 2006. However, on this occasion I used one of the stand-alone PCs we are provided with.

It took 20 minutes to fire-up and log me in, then up to 3 minutes to open each email.

I became very angry as the steam-driven system was clearly not being sufficiently stoked by the boiler man.

Eventually, in fury, I hand wrote a motion to be submitted to the Corporate Services Select Committee later that week and walked it upstairs to the Committee Services office, given that I could not actually type it up and email it, on account of how the whole system was in melt-down.

My motion said

"This committee notes with concern the current very slow speeds on the computers available for use by Councillors, both within group offices and on occasion on laptops.

This committee is aware that the City Council’s contract with Liverpool Direct Limited (LDL) to deliver IT provision for members costs the council tax payers of Liverpool a very large sum of money. This committee believes that the current situation does not demonstrate money well spent on supporting members to support their constituents. This committee calls for urgent action to be taken by either partner to the contract to ensure that members/councillors are given full access to the fastest possible servers and the best possible equipment available within the contract."

We took this motion at the subsequent committee on January 21st.

The following information prepared by the officers in response to the motion, was circulated at the meeting –

The Committee will be well aware that one of the first projects delivered by Liverpool Direct Limited following the setting up of the Joint Venture with the City Council was to make a significant investment to improve the failing network infrastructure. This involved the relocation of the data centre from India Buildings to the Municipal Buildings and the replacement of the cabling and the servers and the provision of improved cabling and more robust and resilient servers. Members will be aware that this project has resulted in vastly reduced downtime and more stable network connections.

The responsibility for the provision of equipment both in the Group Offices and Members own laptops or personal computers for use at home is that of the Committee Services Business Unit. Taking into account recent concerns expressed to him by both Members and colleagues within the service, the Head of Committee Services has raised two individual business enquiries with Liverpool Direct Limited for the replacement of the Office equipment and the Members home equipment.

From initial discussions the capital cost of replacement of the Office personal computers will be in the region of £50,000 and the capital cost of replacing the Members home equipment will be in the region of £110,000. The Head of Committee Services is currently in discussion with the City Treasurer to ascertain whether these costs can be found from within the budget for 2009/10.

If achievable and approved this will provide members with the most up to date laptops with built in wireless technology to enable them to connect to the Council's network irrespective of their location. The Head of Committee Services is also in discussions regarding the provision of a case management system for Members."

As I told the Daily Post in an article in Saturday's paper which has not been reproduced online sadly, my residents in Kensington have better IT systems than I do, and they bought theirs at a tenth of the price. (We pay £2000 a year for each councillor in respect of IT provision dont forget).

During the discussion which took place at the committee, the following issues were raised –

Whether the relocation of the data centre to the Municipal Buildings and the replacement of the cabling and the servers and the provision of improved cabling and more robust and resilient servers, as detailed in the response from officers, has actually resulted in reduced downtime and more stable network connections

The anticipated cost of the proposals and the progress of the current examination of the contract with Liverpool Direct Limited

The possibility of utilizing open source software

The proposed introduction of the casework management system - I have been waiting for this since May 2006 and still we use lined notebooks!

It was agreed that –

a) The response to the Motion be approved and discussions continue as indicated; and

b) A progress report be submitted to the second meeting of the Committee in the next municipal year.

I am not holding my breath - we are paying huge sums of money to LDL for the IT equipment, and for which according to Daily Post journalist David Bartlett, we are paying more for than their partners BT charge the general public.

And the equipment has been second rate since I was elected, nearly three years ago.

In the newspaper article a council spokesperson said the likely problem with slow connections at home would be the age of the equipment, no kidding.

Just think, the council has already paid £6k for my laptop and access to those old machines in the Labour Group office - and my phone line - just since I was elected, and probably another £2k for providing a service to Jimmy Kendrick in the previous year or two.

And what do we have to show for that? Even Bill Gates would not spend that on his own equipment.

It is a disgraceful example of procurement and the council must bear down hard on the LDL contract.


steve faragher said...

I was in a school a couple of months (not in Kensington I might add) and the Head was bemoaning the fact that he had to pay 50% for the Dell computers in his office than (from LDL) than the ones he had in teh computer suite, he has a free choice of supplier, then there was the story I heard of the amount BT charge for a replacement mouse....£25 I feel an FOI letter coming on, then there's McElhinneys bathroom to pay for ooops

scouseboy said...

I can never understand why I.T. and telephone services are so costly for the council. I can also point to some instances in the private sector. I know of one instance when Siemens quoted a firm (no names, no packdrill) £500 to install a phone line to give a PC internet access!! They got the contract to install it!!