The fourth largest county council in England, Lancashire, is a huge county that encompasses some of Britain’s most beautiful countryside as well as Manchester and Liverpool, and has been a significant convert to the idea of exploiting ICT to meet council needs. Its defined strategy is to ‘ensure accessible, high quality, value for money services that meet people’s needs with ICT and e-government playing a vital part’. Its spend on information and communications technology is around £40 million annually. A big part of this drive is the push to create a shared service contact centre: citizens can now also contact the council on one 0845 number. The council also believes in mobility, supporting no less than 4,800 mobiles and Blackberry devices for its staff.
Someone is doing something right in Lancashire – third-party satisfaction polls have found 79 per cent of IT staff are experiencing job satisfaction, compared to 69 per cent of the rest of the council’s workforce. The council recently supported one ICT employee, software engineer Emma Parker, by allowing her concessionary days and flexitime when she represented the UK in the World Archery Championships. There is much interest in flexible working, underpinned by technology, in many of the county council’s departments, with a commitment since 2002 to increase productivity, retain staff, reduce absenteeism and boost staff self-esteem using this approach. In 2004 it signed a three-year contract with Telewest to see how many of its 42,000 staff might eventually work this way.