Councils cut back on in-house IT to drive down spending
The number of job losses among public sector IT workers hit a 25-year high during 2011, according to research published yesterday.
Local authorities cut a total of 5,000 IT staff last year, reducing the number of IT workers in the sector to about 22,000, according to an IT trends report by Socitm, the body for public sector IT professionals.
Martin Greenwood, programme manager for Socitm Insights, said that the cuts had been made possible by public authorities restructuring their IT teams.
"There has been a move towards outsourcing and shared services, with staff that were working for the council now on the supplier's books. There was a significant increase in spending on outsourcing this year," he said.
"There has also been centralisation of the IT department, whereas in the past larger councils might have had separate IT functions for individual departments these are now on the decline."
Local authorities are also using technology to reduce their overall spend, by enabling home and mobile working for staff, switching from paper to electronic forms, increasing their use of virtualisation and using mobile location and mapping services.
Getting the cost of local public service delivery down will continue to be the main focus of public sector IT strategy in the next three years, the report said, via budget cuts, customer self-service, shared services and the adoption of more efficient working practices.
President of Socitm Glyn Evans said in a statement: "The influence of ICT continues to rise as more services are directly delivered through lower-cost ICT-assisted channels. Technology is also helping reduce accommodation costs as the workforce becomes more mobile.
"However, with greater dependence on ICT, organisations must ensure processes and procedures are kept up to date, and greater attention is paid to accuracy, provenance and security of information."
The report also said that there has been a sea change in attitudes towards public sector staff using their own tech at work, the so-called bring your own device trend, with more than 90 per cent of respondents to the report's survey claiming they are happy for the workforce to use their home PC, 60 per cent allowing employees to use their laptops and 30 per cent allowing them to use smartphones.
Socitm's report, surveyed around 600 councils, police and fire authorities, housing associations, and passenger transport bodies.