As of December 2005, Leeds City Council completed a significant investment in new Novell-based technology in a drive to improve access to services for its citizens and employees, according to Phil Bevan, infrastructure development programme manager.

Leeds, the UK’s second largest local authority, says the new structure will underpin its e-government services to all 715,000 citizens. The council’s 226 sites were running up to 850 different applications across 140 servers, with interoperability and ease of management a priority for whatever solution it used.

The new network, the first significant upgrade since a Y2K refresh carried out in 1999, transforms some 10,500 desktops with migrations to Windows XP, Office 2003, and Adobe software at the client end, Siebel and SAP at the backoffice level. The council sees the project as a fundamental building block for better service delivery. Benefits include a 20 per cent drop in helpdesk calls, partly down to single sign-on as some staff had 15 separate password logins before the upgrade. The new system also utilises a single Citrix server farm, a single version of the Lotus Notes email system and a number of Novell desktop and server applications. In parallel, the council consolidated 150 servers into a single datacentre and overhauled the WAN, local area networks, and storage area networks. That’s not the only sign of its IT work. Last year it won the Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM) Excellence in IT award for a mobile working initiative for its social services and home care workers. This digital pen and paper project lets staff file information about service activity directly from clients’ homes, cutting out paperwork and duplicated effort.

As part of its ongoing e-government commitments, in February this year Leeds announced the consolidation of nine call centres into one, to be housed in a new £1.8m contact centre that will house 250 agents and 70 backoffice staff. The centre has been set up to handle more than 30,000 calls a week on issues ranging from housing, social services and environmental services, to council tax and benefits. And in 2003 the council implemented a 10-year Electronic Social Care Record system that it anticipates will recoup total savings of up to £1.5m.