Warning of ‘looming catastrophe’ with Norfolk County Council’s £26m IT project

County councillor Roger Smith, who warned Norfolk County Council's Digital Norfolk Ambition project

County councillor Roger Smith, who warned Norfolk County Council's Digital Norfolk Ambition project is a "catastrophe looming'. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

A £26m project to transform Norfolk County Council's information technology system has been branded as a 'looming catastrophe', after delays and problems sent it £1.25m over budget.

The Digital Norfolk Ambition project - a tie-up between the council and technology giants Hewlett Packard, Microsoft and Vodafone - was hailed as 'ground-breaking' when the deal was agreed in December 2013.

The council said it would lead to more than £10m of savings from the council's IT budget over next five years, while providing front-line staff with the latest technology to help deliver efficient and sustainable public services.

But council officers concede there have been 'significant difficulties', with defects on laptops given to staff, problems moving the council's own servers to Hewlett Packard's data centre and lengthy delays.

The contract, in its second year, is now 4.7pc over budget. It was due to cost £26.35m over five years, but is now projected to cost £27.6m, although the council believes further savings will bring down that total.

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A report into the project was presented to members of the council's policy and resources committee.

Conservative Roger Smith, who represents Henstead ward, said: 'This report shows there is a catastrophe looming. It demonstrates what we are hearing on the ground with staff frustrated at the lack of support and how the programme is going. Our services will fail if this contract does not succeed.'

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But Anne Gibson, executive director of resources at County Hall, said: 'I do not believe this is at the stage of a catastrophe. There were a number of issues because, in my view, when we embarked on DNA we were doing so from a fairly low point in terms of historic investment in information technology. As we have moved into implementation of the project, we have uncovered greater difficulties than we anticipated.'

And Steve Morphew, Labour councillor for Catton Grove, criticised the Conservatives for not investing in information technology during their tenure at County Hall.

He said: 'Given where we were starting from, we knew it was a long way back and it turned out to be even further back than we thought.'

• Do you have a story about a local council? Call reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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