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Councillor questions £4.8m ‘reboot’

A COUNCILLOR who recalled being thoroughly grilled about an IT upgrade more than a decade ago has queried whether a new £4.8m reboot would deliver on its promise.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Mary Jones was chairing a scrutiny committee meeting this week in which Labour’s deputy council leader Clive Lloyd set out the pressing need for the systems upgrade.

A decade ago and it was opposition Labour who took Cllr Jones – then cabinet member responsible for IT – to task about a costly contract with a provider called Capgemini.

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Chris Holley, who is on the scrutiny committee, said: “This is really ironic. We have seen all this before.”

Cllr Lloyd said the Capgemini controversy was before his time and that the planned switch to Oracle Cloud was vital because the current system would not be backed up from November 2020 – and be completely obsolete by December 2021.

The system being upgraded was described in the report before the committee as “the lifeblood of the organisation” dealing with invoices, payslips, school food orders, and major projects among other functions.

“We cannot afford this key system not to be upgraded,” said Cllr Lloyd.

Other options, he said, have been looked at but Oracle Cloud met all the requirements.

Implementing the new system will take a year and is expected to start at the beginning of November.

The committee report said changes in the look and operation of Oracle Cloud could be “quite challenging” for staff so training sessions will be offered.

But it said the new system would be more efficient – offering things like paperless contracts – and an improvement on the current one.

It will cost £3.9m to implement Oracle Cloud in the first year with a further £835,000 required in the second year. Every year after that it would cost £985,000 to run.

Report author Sarah Caulkin, when questioned about the figures in the report, said there were some new costings which hadn’t met the deadline for the meeting but which she would be happy to share in writing.

She added that some posts might be reduced while others might do different work.

Cllr Jones said the IT upgrade of a decade ago promised paperless working.

“I’m really concerned that this has not happened,” she said. “How confident are we?”

Ms Caulkin said the current system was in fact an improvement on the previous one.

“I think everything was manual previously,” she said.

The scrutiny committee will write to cabinet with its observations.

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