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Sharp rise predicted in local gov't tech spend

Spending during 2007/8 is expected to see a nine percent increase on the previous year, with security costs a major factor
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Written by Tim Ferguson on

Local government IT spending is predicted to hit £3bn during 2007/8 — a nine percent increase on the previous year.

According to the Society of IT Management's (Socitm) annual IT Trends survey, spending on local government IT will rise again as councils invest in efficiency programmes and securing the information held on their computers.

Despite the survey being carried out before the recent spate of public-sector security breaches, respondents identified more than 180 security concerns — from careless use of passwords to data centre failures — and security costs have risen dramatically since 2006.

Richard Steel, chief information officer of the London Borough of Newham and vice president of Socitm, said his organisation plans to spend a similar amount on IT during the next 12 months as last year, but will focus on knowledge management and quality of data systems.

He told ZDNet.co.uk's sister site, silicon.com: "It's the whole issue about making sure we can maximise the sharing of information on behalf of our customers but also ensure that we don't ever put their data at risk by doing so."

Public-sector IT managers also said commitment among management and members to local government business transformation is on the increase.

The survey found 21 percent of organisations have member involvement with transformation (up from 14 percent in 2006) while another 44 percent have commitment from top management.

The government's 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review set tough spending targets and Socitm claims better use of IT could help organisations meet these aims.

But the report also said local government could do more to focus on using IT to improve overall business performance and IT bosses said business processes need to be changed and business partnerships encouraged in order to create greater efficiency.

The IT staffing situation in local government will remain largely unchanged in the next year, with some increases in the number of consultants and other contracted staff. There has, however been a big increase in staff turnover between 2006 and 2007, from 14 percent to 23 percent.

John Serle, editor of IT Trends 2007/08, said the traditional concerns of IT management have become less important with efficiency and shared services becoming more prominent.

He added that it's encouraging to see IT benefiting from greater resources despite increasing financial constraints, showing IT is regarded as "something worth investing in".

The survey covered 468 local authorities in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, along with a number of police forces.

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