With the ongoing challenge of public sector funding reductions in the UK, local authorities are feeling the pressure to achieve their tough savings targets by changing their delivery and operating models for customer service. The three East London boroughs of Havering, Newham and Waltham Forest are a shining example of how forming a joint development board for design, development and implementation of advanced customer relationship management and web technologies can cut costs quite dramatically and enable more public services to be delivered ‘digital by default’.

Cheryl Bennett, Transformation Programme Manager at Havering Council puts the challenge into perspective when she says, “What would you rather do when faced with funding cuts - identify cost avoidance initiatives in ICT or scrap the ‘meals on wheels’ service for older people?”

The three councils have formed a unique partnership in shared information and communications technology (ICT) solutions using Microsoft technologies. Geoff Connell, CIO for the London Boroughs of Newham and Havering added, “Our joint vision is to use the same products, deploy them in the same way, and share design, process, code and support arrangements. Possibly a first in UK local and regional government.”

Havering has made cost savings of £1.6million so far in the first phase of development. Newham has also realised £12 million savings through joint working and its customer access programme for “digital by default” services. Transactions such as council tax, parking permits and housing benefit claims can now be done online. This range is set to further increase to include services such as adult social care, planning and building control.

The councils have worked with the Microsoft Partner Infusion (http://www.infusion.com/default.aspx) to develop this common solution to their web and customer contact requirements. Infusion is using the Microsoft Connected Government Framework as the development platform for the transformation programme and SharePoint for their web requirements. Built on the Microsoft.NET 3.5 Framework and open standards such as XML, the Microsoft Connected Government Framework provides an underlying layer to a local authority infrastructure.

This joint working has produced several benefits for the three borough councils:

  1. Improved websites encourage channel shifting and help avoid costs
  2. New website eases the burden of writing site content
  3. Citizens gain access to hundreds of transactional services online
  4. Staff respond positively to changes in customer services delivery
  5. Experienced Microsoft Partner offers added value to solution.

This case study provides a great example of local governments coming together in order to tackle the common task of reducing costs and improving online access to public services. You can read the full story here.

Posted by Lucy Gilbert, Microsoft on Government