Budget and staff cuts mean council IT is at breaking point
Local authority IT departments are being "stretched to breaking point" by cuts to staffing and budget levels, a report has found.
The Socitm IT Trends 2009/10 report found that local authority IT budgets fell by 11 per cent in 2009 over 2008 and predicts IT spending will continue to drop this year.
The number of IT staff employed by local councils also fell in 2009 by about 10 per cent on staffing levels in 2008.
The report is based on a survey of IT professionals in 390 local government and local public service organisations by Socitm, the professional association for public sector IT managers.
Report author John Serle said IT staff would struggle to deliver the same levels of service to councils if the cutbacks continued.
"There are clear indications that IT function is under stress and has to deliver more with less," he said.
"Public services are getting stretched to breaking point and it is not going to be possible to carry on the IT models or service models in the ways that we used to."
Serle said local councils looking to continue cutting IT budgets without damaging service levels should consider new ways of providing IT, such as greater use of outsourcing, cloud services or setting up shared services centres with other councils.
IT is not being used as a tool to reshape the structure of organisations to make them more efficient, the report found, as IT is still too often seen simply as a utility.
Serle added CIOs were also too often excluded from decision making at board level.
However the report found some positive signs, with many councils increasing the efficiency of their operations by using server virtualisation and boosting the number of services that the public could access over the web.
Local authorities are also looking at saving more money by replacing expensive and power-hungry desktop PCs with low cost thin client computers running virtualised desktops, the report said.