Financially-troubled Derbyshire council gives go-ahead for a new ‘£500,000’ IT management team

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Financially-stretched Derbyshire County Council has agreed to a new five-strong Information and Communication Technology management team at an estimated cost of over half-a-million pounds to roll-out an up to date digital strategy in the hope of becoming more efficient.

The council has conceded its ICT department and services have fallen behind some other authorities but after approving a Digital Strategy, a Cloud Strategy and a new Director Digital post it has now agreed to a new Target Operating Model with plans for a new team to head-up and oversee its on-going strategy.

Deputy Leader, Cllr Simon Spencer, told a recent Cabinet meeting the council’s report into its ICT Strategy and Digital Services Target Operating Model is comprehensive and recognises the council’s need to move forward.

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He said: “It talks about the ongoing importance by the council in delivering a digital strategy over the years to come and that sum will be significant and necessary to deliver high quality and satisfactory services.”

Pictured Is Derbyshire County Council'S County Hall, Off Bank Road, MatlockPictured Is Derbyshire County Council'S County Hall, Off Bank Road, Matlock
Pictured Is Derbyshire County Council'S County Hall, Off Bank Road, Matlock

Cllr Spencer added that ICT has become an integral part of everything the local authority does and the new strategy and model will help staff to operate at as high a level possible.

The council stated that by adopting a digital transformation approach it will enhance service delivery, empower residents and staff to take control of services and enable better outcomes with a digitally inclusive approach providing effective early help for people.

It also argued that residents and businesses will be able to more easily carry out transactions with the council and its partner organisations with confidence that information will be accurate and up to date.

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The council stated the Digital Strategy, Cloud Strategy and the Target Operating Model for Digital Services will provide a technology roadmap and an implementation programme that will transform the council’s technology platforms.

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Implementing the new Targeting Operating Model, which will include five authoritative positions, is estimated to require additional resources of around .£500,000, according to the council.

It will include an already appointed Director Digital, supported by one Assistant Director heading up the Strategy and Architecture functions and three Heads of Service heading up Applications and Infrastructure, Business Engagement, and Service Management.

The new digital director has already been appointed but the council stated that recruitment of the Assistant Director and Heads of Service roles have not yet been concluded and in the Digital Services division there are a high number of vacancies and it is unlikely all these vacancies will be filled internally.

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During the meeting on June 13, the Cabinet approved its ICT strategy and Digital Services Target Operating Model with the right teams to update the council’s systems to become more efficient with improved customer service.

The council report stated that one-off implementation costs for the Target Operating Model of approximately £556,000 are expected over two years between 2024 and 2026 to be funded from existing budgets where possible and any requirement for additional funding will be subject to separate approvals.

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There is a total revenue budget for ICT services in 2024/25 of £11.39m, of which £7.595m is allocated to staffing and £3.795m to non-staffing costs and the staffing budget allocation is expected to be sufficient to accommodate the Target Operating Model on an ongoing basis, according to the council.

The council’s report also stated the 2024/25 Capital Programme includes an allocation of £5.95m for ICT Services Hardware and Infrastructure which is to be funded from borrowing and any any requirements for financial investment in excess of the allocated revenue and capital budgets for 2024/25 will need to be considered as part of the 2025/26 financial planning process.

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It added that the ICT team will deliver services that enable the organisation to improve the lives of all residents and businesses, through better designed services, the use of data for innovation and with improved digital collaboration.

Council Leader Barry Lewis said ICT is something the council needs to keep investing in with new software and with the development of artificial intelligence and he added it is absolutely vital the council gets ‘ahead of the curve’.

Derbyshire County Council had previously voted unanimously during a Full Council meeting in November, 2023, to appoint a Chief Technology Officer and Digital Director whose possible salary had been evaluated as between £99,063 to £108,772 per annum.

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The Conservative-led council’s on-going investment in its ICT programme has coincided with a number of far-reaching saving proposals to meet its budget deficit of over £39m for the 2024/25 financial year after it has blamed its financial plight on external economic influences.

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Like many other local authorities, Derbyshire County Council has suffered from high inflation rates, the cost of living crisis, uncertainties with Government funding, rising costs and rising demands on services, and the impact of costly pay awards.

In September, 2023, the council introduced a recruitment freeze though it stressed at the time that recruitment would continue in some cases where roles were deemed to be essential.