Cuts to IT budgets and staff in local government were much lower than expected, according to a Socitm survey.

Socitm, the public sector IT manager’s association, said that the findings in its annual ‘IT Trends 2010/11’ report supported other evidence in the survey that local public service providers are seeing IT investment as key to achieving efficiency and modernisation goals.

This is despite Socitm predicting that the number of IT staff employed in the sector will fall by 1,000 this year, with respondents also reporting skills shortages in areas such as business analysis and business process re-engineering.

Although budget and staff cuts were not as severe as expected, the report found that IT managers are still concerned about the shrinking resources available to IT. However, Socitm found that new ways of working, including shared services and sharing resources, were helping IT departments deliver  to the same, or even better standards, as before.

For example, in an effort to cut costs, IT departments are sharing equipment, deploying hot-desking and using virtualisation – with the use of thin-client devices having grown in the last year.

Socitm believes that investment in virtualisation will continue to be made, to reduce the cost of almost every part of the IT infrastructure.

The survey found that cloud computing has not yet developed a significant role in local government sourcing, but Socitm said that it will over the next 12 months, particularly because respondents are expected to switch to the G-Cloud next year.

Although the survey identified more interest in the PSN (Public Sector Network) than in the G-Cloud, Socitm said: “Intentions expressed in IT Trends one year are not always matched by take-up in the next.”

Local government workers are also becoming more mobile, which is encouraging the growth of laptop and mobile technology in the IT estate. This also contributes to organisations’ general efficiency measures, which includes flexible and remote working.

In addition, it is now more common for local authorities to prioritise joint working, creating partnerships and sharing services, as well as joint funding, to address the issues of declining budgets. Nevertheless, Socitm said that the fact that borrowing to finance IT initiatives has doubled since 2009, indicates that confidence in the benefits of investing in IT has returned.

Socitm president Jos Creese, said: “There is a new confidence in what ICT can deliver, with ICT investment being made to drive wider savings and change,” said Socitm president Jos Creese.

“Moreover, ICT is now longer just about supporting or automating the ‘back office’. It is being recognised as a delivery function in its own right, both internally and externally.”

The IT Trends survey is based on questionnaires that are sent to heads of IT of every local authority and other local public service provider in the UK.