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June 6, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 1:24pm

The 5 REAL reasons councils aren’t using G-Cloud

Socitm hits back at claims councils are missing out on cloud savings.

By Joe Curtis

A society for public sector IT pros has savaged the Government’s G-Cloud as it hit back at claims local authorities not on the public procurement framework are wasting millions of pounds.

Socitm claimed G-Cloud fails to meet the needs of local council IT services and isn’t competitive enough on price in an interview with CBR.

Its head of policy, Martin Ferguson, was responding to figures showing that 26 county councils spent less than 1% of their collective IT budget via the framework in 2012/13.

G-Cloud was introduced by the Government in 2012 in order to save public sector money by letting SMBs bid on cloud IT contracts.

But the Cabinet Office admitted more must be done to promote the initiative after Bull Information Systems revealed that 18 of 26 county councils spent nothing on the service in 2012/13.

A spokesman said 92 councils have spent a total £9.4m on G-Cloud so far, but Socitm’s Ferguson tells CBR G-Cloud is far from good enough at meeting local authorities’ IT requirements.

Here’s his 5 reasons why:

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G-Cloud was developed for central Government

"It was really developed as a response to the dependence of central government on very big and unwieldy contracts in the past to break them down into smaller parts, bringing SMBs into the market," Ferguson tells us.

And he sees central government IT needs as very different from those of local councils.

"From a local government point of view, a lot of services on there are not realistic to help local government with what services it delivers."

He points to the absence of software to support key responsibilities of local government, such as housing and social care services.

Contracts are way, way too short

"This is a major issue," says Ferguson. While central Government might like short-term contracts of one or two years, this simply creates too much unrest among council departments having to shift vast swathes of data from one service to another every 18 or 24 months, he believes.

"Every two years you’re faced with a transition to something new," he explains. "The upheaval to everyone and everything involved is prohibitive. That’s why there’s relatively low take-up by local government. But that’s not to say local gov is falling behind in procuring cloud services [from elsewhere than G-Cloud]."

G-Cloud isn’t as competitive as it needs to be

"Because G-Cloud is relatively new, the pricing isn’t as competitive as you’d think it might be," Ferguson tells us.

However, with version 5 going live last month with 1,132 suppliers – 133 more than version 4 – that’s likely to improve with time.

 

And there’s better options for councils

Asked whether Ferguson thinks the Government’s Public Services Network (PSN) is a better option than G-Cloud, the policy director says it is.

The initiative is expected to contribute to £500m worth of savings by the end of 2014 by allowing councils to share services, and all 33 London boroughs have migrated to the London PSN already.

Ferguson points out: "The PSN has been a drive to procuring [cloud] services by providing a shared network platform in a locality.

"You may well want to provide IT services to another council and cloud gives you the ability to do that. Shares services and collaborative services generally support that."

It lacks quality assurances

So says Kent County Council, which had a £94,750 G-Cloud spend in 2012/13 from an IT budget of £38.5m.

It said in a statement: "We have used the G-cloud to procure some software, but it is not currently able to offer the time savings, quality assurances and consistency necessary to make it effective. We have raised these issues with the Cabinet Office and believe that until these are addressed, the G-cloud does not offer the best route for sourcing software for local authorities."

Besides…

Socitm was keen to state that the figures do not show previous investments via G-Cloud, which isn’t just for ongoing cloud provision, but for one-off services too.

And while large public bodies may be less likely to benefit, smaller organisations (not included in Bull’s figures) may be better suited for short-term contracts provided by smaller companies.

Additionally, Ferguson says local government remains interested in the framework, especially for sourcing Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service solutions.

 

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