To receive a presentation on the ICT contract with Norfolk County Council.
Mr Tom Baker, Chief Information Officer at Norfolk County Council presented to Members and said that there was an open, honest and good working relationship between Breckland and NCC.
He assured Members that five dedicated members of staff had worked in partnership to provide the Public Service Network (PSN) compliance piece of work which had been successfully completed.
It was highlighted that some software would no longer be supported which affected the vast majority of Officers and Members who were using equipment and operating systems that were out of date.
He provided assurances that they were working to achieve improvements with the Customer Service Desk. There had been 21 vacancies following a recent restructure within ICT at NCC and these positions had now been filled. Nine of these posts would be in the Service desk.
NCC were working with Microsoft and Hewlett Packard to ensure delivery of over 5000 devices. Vodafone were also working with the partnership to review the working styles of Officers and Members which had proved valuable as this had also contributed to the wider estate strategy. There appeared to be an appetite for mobile working which would provide flexibility for the work / life balance.
Everyone seemed very keen on using tablets as a way forward, however after analysis it appeared the best device would be a light-weight laptop. This had a built-in web cam which would enable individuals to work from home. New smartphones were also being considered. He emphasised the importance for both NCC and Breckland to remain PSN compliant. Storing information in the Government Cloud would enable a safe and secure environment.
Roll out of devices had begun at NCC and feedback received so far was that performance had increased and people seemed happy with the new equipment.
The Leader of the Council said he wanted to ensure that Breckland Members and Officers had the best equipment and reminded Mr Baker that many Members were in rural areas and therefore had very low broadband speeds. He also said that the Shared Managers at Breckland and South Holland had system access difficulties across the two sites. Whilst the vision of the future seemed great the current system was not working and in order to gain confidence Breckland needed to ensure that the systems proposed were right for the organisation.
Councillor Bambridge said that he was not convinced that the Digital Norfolk Ambition (DNA) was right for Breckland as it was a District Council. As Member E-Champion he was aware of the IT issues of Members and said that it would be a great pity if the relationship was lost on the little things. He suggested that someone could concentrate on these little issues to improve service and confidence as he would like to see the service work.
Councillor Turner simply asked for systems that were fit for purpose and worked properly. Mr Baker said that the current systems were not fit for purpose as the outdated equipment did not work effectively.
Mr Baker went on to say that Microsoft Office software would be available on the laptop and was designed with using the Cloud in mind. All documents and emails would be synchronised to the Cloud. Members would need access to the internet.
The Chairman said that Broadband within rural areas was limited or the speed is so low that it did not allow download of files. There appeared to be a misunderstanding of the Members requirements. Members were responsible to the public who expected their elected Member to do a job. The focus seemed to be the majority of people who worked at NCC and not the 54 Members who were situated in a rural location.
Mr Baker understood the issues and would take the points on board. He understood there was an emphasis on the need for connectivity and wanted to work together to address the Broadband issues across Norfolk.
Councillor Kybird was aware that the Officers re-fresh was well overdue. However, he asked if the cost of it had been included in any budget figures.
Mr Baker said that conversations were taking place with regards to the costs involved.
Councillor Kybird wanted confirmation that budgets had been considered and the ICT Manager confirmed that there was some ICT Strategy money available and figures were being reviewed.
Councillor Bowes asked if the laptops would be syncronised to the smartphones. Mr Baker confirmed that this would be the case and the same information could be seen across the two devices.
With regards to connectivity issues Councillor Jolly asked what minimum broadband speed would be required to ensure the systems would work properly.
Mr Baker said that for a video conference a minimum of 2MB would be required.
Mr Jermy said that as a County Member he received an allowance for his broadband; as a Breckland Member he had a Breckland Router; and he also had a personal router. Mr Baker said there was no need to have two lines into his house as other options were available.
Mr Jermy was pleased that this topic was being debated at Scrutiny and suggested that better monitoring should be built in to ensure better safeguarding and systems were in place.
Mr Baker agreed and said that improvements such as the service desk needed to be seen and that agreements that were in place were met. NCC were committed to delivering the contract.
The Director of Commissioning said that she had recently received the new device and reminded Members that Mr Baker would not be able to deal with the broadband connectivity issues as this formed a wider project across Norfolk. She said the system was much easier to use and there were benefits even when there was not full connectivity.
The Leader of the Council thanked Mr Baker and commented that he was in a difficult position but doing a great job. He was sure that Mr Baker sensed Members frustration.