Birmingham City Council has instigated what it sees as the first practical ‘transformational government’ partnership contract as envisaged by central government with its 10-year, £450 million agreement signed in April 2006 with services supplier Capita. The £450m sum represents the council’s current projected spend and investment on ICT and associated services over the full period, but the council expects savings of £1 billion over the life of the contract, delivering 15 per cent efficiency savings, or twice the Gershon minimum.

Around 450 people in Birmingham’s ICT department will transfer to the new organisation and a new business centre will be built in the city as part of Capita’s move to support council operations. The deal is unusual for such outsourcing arrangements as it is based on a joint venture, the Service Birmingham
Partnership, in which both the council and Capita will have a significant majority shareholding. This means, in the words of the city’s head of IT, Glyn Evans: “We will both share in its successes and possibly its failures. We see this as a true partnership arrangement.” The contract has something of an involved history. Local elections delayed a projected 2005 signing, which at one time had suppliers like IBM, EDS and SCC in the running alongside Capita. Always seen as a way to rationalise existing outsourcing arrangements, including server support provided by what was ITNet (now part of services group Serco), at one time a 15-year deal seemed possible. “It’s taken us two and a half years to
cross the finishing line,” confirms Evans.

Though the emphasis is very firmly on business benefits to council and users, Evans foresees certain key technologies coming to the fore as a result. “I’d expect to see an increasing emphasis going forward on thin-client technology, more use of open source and especially more wireless,” he told MIS 100. The latter technology he sees as vital to attracting more business to the city. “Wireless we see as key to both economic regeneration and supporting our successful conference business.”
By 2007, he adds, he would have hoped to see improved service and real movement towards business transformation using ICT in the council.