Cabinet approves changes to its 'poor' IT department

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

Slough Borough Council’s cabinet has agreed to some department restructures it hopes will help it tackle its ongoing financial crisis.

At a cabinet meeting on Monday (July 18), members swiftly approved both an IT team restructure and one for its senior management team.

Speaking on the former, leader of the council James Swindlehurst said the ‘desperation to get IT into a fit state precedes much else.’

A review of the council’s IT services in October 2021 said there was ‘a need to get the basics right,’ including acquiring leaders with ‘significant experience’ in the areas they lead.

The IT team also needs ‘adequate capacity to rectify long-standing issues.’

“The poor state of technology and digital services and its impact on operational effectiveness has become increasingly clear,” officers wrote in the report presented to cabinet.

“We’re on our knees a bit in IT,” Cllr Swindlehurst said.

The proposals brought to the cabinet on Monday were approved swiftly without much discussion.

The council is keen to ‘get on with it,’ said Cllr Swindlehurst.

Some of the proposed improvements include better contract management of third-party suppliers and supporting hybrid working practices.

Under the IT restructure, two teams will be merged into one, and the aim is to go up from 32 full time staff to 51, which ‘compares favourably’ with other local authorities which have about 50 roles.

The aim is to have about the same number of people but ‘provide a much higher level of service’, said Councillor Zaffar Ajaib, cabinet member for customer services, procurement and performance.

The cost will be offset by the reduction in reliance on costly interim staff – something the council is looking to address across the board.

One problem the council faces is recruitment and retention of specialist IT skills among the workforce, with many such specialists opting to find work outside of Slough borough.

Cllr Robert Anderson, cabinet member for financial oversight and council assets, suggested taking plan B avenues for recruitment off the back burner and ‘onto the front burner’, to address these challenges sooner rather than later.

In the senior management restructure report, a key recommended change is to put in place a new additional director (from six up to seven in total) to split up the functions more effectively.

The officers’ report said that a senior leadership team, which currently consists ‘almost entirely of interim support’, has ‘placed a handbrake on progress during recent months.’

Overall, there is ‘a need to prioritise some services such as IT, finance and democratic services.’

Slough council must ‘move away from external consultants' delivering internal functions and address the ‘lack of permanence’ at the most senior levels.

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