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November 21, 2019

Fed Up with Market Suppliers, Councils Seek Open-Source Revenue and Benefits System

“Current suppliers are resistant to inter-operability and none have expressed an interest in developing a new core system."

By CBR Staff Writer

Six local authorities – fed up with their costly and outdated Revenues and Benefits computer systems – said today that they are launching a project to see if they can develop and deploy their own open-source alternative; all on a modest £75,000 budget after winning gov’t funding for the plan.

Every council in the UK is required to process Revenue and Benefits data, however there is no single standard or system currently been used by local authorities that lets them accurately and efficiently process all of the customer data they are receiving, they said. As a result six local authorities (Exeter, Teignbridge, East Devon, Basildon, Brentwood and Sedgemoor) are seeking a new, vendor-busting fix for their digital transformation needs.

Many of the councils are using hugely outdated in-house systems or locked in to vendor contracts that are rigid and stifle innovation. As Teignbridge District Council puts it: “The supplier systems were all architected some years ago (1990s) and are therefore designed on outdated technologies.

“None of the existing providers have expressed any plans to develop new core systems to take advantage of modern technology.”

Not Fit for Customers’ Use, and Far Too Costly

The councils believe that the currently used Revenues & Benefits software was not developed in a customer-centric manner and as a result it is not fit for purpose. To make matters worse, the current platforms used by local authorities carry “significant” costs and if a council wishes to “tweak” a part of its system to meet new customer or business needs they are required to purchase new modules with “functionality they do not require or wish to use”, they bewailed.

The annual cost of maintaining the Revenue and Benefits systems for the East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council and Teignbridge District Council is approximately £350,000; a significant sum in a time of austerity, when LA budgets have been slashed in recent years.

As their invitation to tender states: “Current suppliers are resistant to inter-operability and none have expressed an interest in developing a new core system. The cost of these systems and additional modules is considerable. This approach by suppliers hinders LAs ability to raise logic across different systems, raise and analyse data across other parts of the organisation, develop APIs, encourage automation and deliver cost savings.”

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Open-Source Revenue and Benefits System

Teignbridge District Council says that the current approach by suppliers works to ‘hinder’ the council and is stopping them from innovating in areas such as API development and the analytics of data throughout the organisation.

The council feels it is severely restricted by the supplier marketplace and that the current systems are failing to meet a more customer centric transformation of its digital systems.

The council lists four key issues that are not been met by marketplace solutions.

  • Existing platforms fail to meet the users need with business processes dictated by the system
  • There is a high cost and inflexibility for change to the systems, with any requested changes taking significant time to implement
  • Poor integration capabilities lead to challenges in joining up the system with other systems commonly in use across the Council
  • Poor reuse of data and ability to share and analyse data using modern Business Intelligence tools.

The investigation currently in the discovery phase has been awarded £71,000 in funded by the Ministry of Housing’s Local Digital Fund. The hypothesis they want to test: “That an in house system can be developed and successfully supported by local authorities which is open source.”

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