Computer failure hits email of 2,000 Norfolk County Council staff

A computer failure has hit the email system at Norfolk County Council. A computer failure has hit the email system at Norfolk County Council.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
9:10 AM

Embarrassed council bosses have apologised for a computer failure, which has meant almost 2,000 staff at Norfolk County Council have not been able to read or send emails - for more than a week.

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And officers admitted they had no way of accessing accounts to find out if vital emails, such as tip-offs about concerns over vulnerable children, were sat unread in email boxes.

The problem, which has affected a third of the council’s workforce, started last Tuesday, when workers returned from the Easter Monday bank holiday.

And despite staff and experts from Microsoft working “around the clock” the problems are continuing more than a week later.

David Collinson, the council’s assistant director, public protection, said: “The council’s email system suffered a fault over the Easter weekend with about 2000 staff, a third of users, affected.

“Council ICT staff have been working around the clock with specialists from Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard to identify and rectify the issues. “Every avenue is being explored, using both internal and external expertise, to restore a stable and reliable service to all users – and our communities who need to contact individuals directly.

“This has been an unprecedented event as we would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.

“Staff have been using alternative methods of communication where possible - such as using telephone, text or meeting face-to-face.”

Only people whose surnames began with certain letters were affected by the problem, which hit one of the three servers the council uses.

Some people started to get use of their emails back yesterday.

But Mr Collinson said: “We need to take a systematic approach to restoring the system and this will take some time yet to complete.

“We have diverted critical and customer facing email boxes to reduce the impact on the public and phone lines and internet remain unaffected.”

When asked whether the problem could have led to crucial emails from members of the public going unread, a council spokesman said it was not possible to know if that was the case.

But he said: “If anyone has raised an issue with us which they think needs an immediate response and they have not heard back from us, we would encourage them to call us direct to discuss over the phone.”

In December, the county council announced it had signed a “ground-breaking agreement” to transform and improve public services in Norfolk by harnessing the power of new technology.

The Digital Norfolk Ambition project - between Norfolk County Council and HP, and its key partners Microsoft and Vodafone - was hailed as a way to make more than £10m savings from the council’s IT budget over the next five years.

The move, the council said, would also provide front-line staff with “the latest technology to help deliver efficient and sustainable public services”.

15 comments

  • I emailed a member of staff a few days ago. Within 3 hours I had a response saying the message had been delayed. Next day, I had another one, so picked up the phone. Easy. Oh, and Trevor - 'V' is never right about anything.

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    Tom Jeffries

    Thursday, May 1, 2014

  • DT - Nobbs is happy to employ private consultants to give him his views when he needs to make a decision... Why isn't he concerned about costs? Also if the issue is as Flatliner sugests - an internal job - then why would external providers give compensation? NCC should prosecute any employees involved using the full strength of the law and set an example.

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    Andy T

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • Er...DT it doesn't matter if it cost 10 million as it would easily save 100 million plus with the goings on in this place. To many staff and to many duff contracts, the whole thing is a mess and needs sorting.

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    Sweet cheeks

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • DT, the problem is likely to be not so much as the private contractors as the council officers who negotiated the contract. I wonder if there is a compensation clause in the contract if service is unavailable? The only IT contract that I know of in any detail is an incredibly bad deal for taxpayers where instead of saving money by virtue of its scale, actually costs more than is available from high street retailers for exactly the same hardware.

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    andy

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • Yes Sweet Cheeks - because a private sector management consultant team wouldn't cost much to bring in at all!? Er....

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    DT

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • To be more correct about 43 staff out of 200ish have so far left the ICT team at NCC. Most of these LEFT and have not been sacked because the atmosphere is so horrible to work in! A lot of other staff have had to apply for their own jobs, and have not got them so will be leaving too! In a restructure that has been going on since September. It has now got to the point where there are not enough staff left to run the service, and the ones that are left are so demoralised their work is affected. The only winner in all this is the private sector, who has had an injection of highly skilled, highly trained IT staff that they have not had to pay to train, because you the tax payer did!

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    Insider

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • Not only is NCC a failure but the IT system is as well, so alot of staff have been doing nothing for a week, nothing new there then. When is this council going to be investigated and pulled apart as its just a joke, lets have a private sector management consultant team in and start saving some millions

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    Sweet cheeks

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • May not be true, and perhaps someone at NCC could correct me if I'm wrong, but I heard the problems started after half the IT staff were sacked and the accounts affected are in respect of people with surnames from F to O. Coincidence or another case of effective HR management at NCC?

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    flatliner

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • Despite no email service, isn't it amazing that everything is still functioning. Perhaps a wake up call that all these emails, meetings and internal correspondence aren't really needed.

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    Chris Johnson

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • Emails that possibly include tips offs about vulnerable children may be sitting in Inboxes unread? And they've waited a week to tell the public that they need to find an alternative avenue to report problems? Nicely done NCC. One can only hope your delay in announcing this has not prolonged any suffering.

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    Lesa

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • Certain of the officers in County Hall must be clapping their hands. They are the ones who routinely decline to reply to e-mails. Now they have the perfect defence if anyone complains. Remember, if you are waiting for an e-mail response, the system was working up until 18 April at least.

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    Nemesis

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • Yes I mknew of it since last wednesday as I was expecting an acknowledgement of a conduct complaint against a councillor, but thought it would be an easy glitch to sort out. Little did I know, a week later not much has improved. NCC is hampered in their year end finances, Mr. Revell can't get going with his long grass inquiery and our communications to councillors don't get anywhere. If NCC had chosen to change all its operation to open software, as Munich did over a decade ago, there would be no need for expensive computer contracts with propriatary software hawkers. NCC is hopelessly dependent on its computer links and I advise taxpayers to write to them instead with their queries and ask for a written reply.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • "V" is quite right. So much for the Digital Ambition project! "Partnerships" like this actually form part of the strategies employed by the big IT players like HP and Microsoft to maintain their effective monopolies as providers of hardware and software for the public sector. They want a situation where local government simply cannot imagine life without them! Breakdowns on this scale make clear that the quality of what they provide leaves a lot to be desired.

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    Trevor Ashwin

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • Has anyone outside the pretend-world of the Council even noticed?

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    Norfolk and Good

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • "In December, the county council announced it had signed a “ground-breaking agreement” to transform and improve public services in Norfolk by harnessing the power of new technology". "The Digital Norfolk Ambition project - between Norfolk County Council and HP, and its key partners Microsoft and Vodafone - was hailed as a way to make more than £10m savings from the council’s IT budget over the next five years" Well thats all gone west, hasnt it ?

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    "V"

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

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