License to share – government CIO calls time on cloud blockers

Since the last decade debate about public sector technology and provision has regularly featured the term shared services. With public sector cuts at the core of the current government’s policy as it seeks to reduce the deficit following the bail out of the troubled banking sector, the need and desire to take shared services to the next level is important to business technology leaders in local authorities. One organisation has pioneered the shared service delivery in East Anglia, but as its head of operations tells CIO UK, the IT vendor community is holding back the development of shared services and the adoption of cloud computing.

LGSS is one of the largest public sector shared services organisations in the UK. Run by Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire County Councils, LGSS also provides services to several other East Anglian and Midlands authorities. Set up in October 2010 LGSS has over 1100 staff and claims to provide the public purse with £11m worth of savings.

A full range of public sector departmental services are provided by LGSS including finance and investment planning, HR strategy and people management; workforce services, employee relations, payroll, pensions, property management, procurement, audit, legal, project management and IT.

Director of OperationsRocco Labellarte, CIO for LGSS explains that in forming LGSS the two local authorities took advice from the Queen’s Council and came up with its existing partnership where work is delegated by each member to each other for legal ease.

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“We have one set of priorities, no roadmap, but a long dialogue,” Labellarte says of operating model. “We don’t make a profit, but we cover our costs by doing a lot more, we automate, simplify the services and then with the extra capacity this creates we can take on more work from other authorities.”

Labellarte has been with LGSS from its inception having started his local authority career as Northamptonshire County Council Head of IT in October 2009. He and the senior management team of LGSS are passionate about the need for public sector reform.

Vice chair of the LGSS, Councillor Andrew Langley says: "We have proved the case for sharing services and are actively engaging with other public sector organisations to see how LGSS could benefit them. As LGSS grows so will the economies of scale and all parties will benefit from the reduced costs."

“In government we have to stop being idiots, we are all very similar. For shared services to work we have to be able to aggregate more of our technology, not just networks.