Councillor warns of “looming catastrophe” for IT project

A local councillor has described Norfolk County Council’s IT project to overhaul public services as a “looming catastrophe”, as the scheme suffers delays and increasing costs.

The £26 million collaboration between the council and Hewlett Packard, Microsoft and Vodafone was first announced as the Digital Norfolk Ambition project in December 2013 and was described at the time as “ground-breaking”.

The council predicted a saving of £10 million in the IT budget over five years as it provided staff with new technology to overhaul the council’s public services.

However, the project has been dogged by server issues in moving the council’s resources to Hewlett Packard’s data centre, software issues with new issue laptops and delays to implementation.

The council has received a report of the Digital Norfolk Ambition project’s progress that suggests the total budget has been exceeded by nearly 5%.

Councillor Roger Smith warned: “This report shows there is a catastrophe looming. It demonstrates what we are hearing on the ground with staff frustrated at the lack of support and how the programme is going. Our services will fail if this contract does not succeed.”

Anne Gibson, executive director of resources at County Hall, responded: “I do not believe this is at the stage of a catastrophe. There were a number of issues because, in my view, when we embarked on DNA we were doing so from a fairly low point in terms of historic investment in information technology.

As we have moved into implementation of the project, we have uncovered greater difficulties than we anticipated,” she conceded.

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