The planned merger of Camden and Islington councils’ ICT teams will hasten the digitalisation of council services and support their integration with other local public services, Camden’s finance chief has told UKAuthorITy.
Under the proposals, published yesterday, the boroughs’ ICT staff – currently numbering 300 – will be brought together under the leadership of a single person, with their work overseen by a joint committee comprising representatives from both councils.
Councillor Theo Blackwell, Camden’s cabinet member for finance and technology policy, told UKAuthorITy this morning that “we’re looking at a saving of at least £4m per year, but the further benefit is driving forward the digital transformation of both services.”
Camden and Islington already have a shared public health service, Blackwell pointed out, and both councils “have a political leadership that realises that one way of dealing with the very, very significant cuts we’re having is an investment in technology, and in recruiting and retaining the best staff, [to pursue] the wider idea of integrating local public services with the NHS.” He added: “We know from having our public health teams working together and sharing data that we can produce better services.”
Asked why few other councils have yet merged their ICT teams, Blackwell replied that “many councils are trapped with legacy systems and proprietorial deals struck some time ago. There’s also a big challenge around political leadership: most councils see ICT through their experience of signing big contracts with ICT firms, rather than seeing it as fundamental to the transformation of services.” In other parts of the country, he added, “I don’t think the investment has been made in technology, in the right IT teams, in reform and in devolution – but it will happen, because it seems to us the right way forward.”
The boroughs’ strong digital and creative industries provide other opportunities, said Blackwell, pointing out that “both Camden and Islington are located in the middle of London, if not the UK’s, tech’ scene, so there’s an opportunity for us to have really great teams and a relationship with local businesses. This has great potential in terms of innovation and also being really close to the talent that’s out there, sharing the benefits of collaboration in the context of Tech City.”
The decision on whether to pursue the merger will be made by the Cabinet at Camden Council on 9 September, and by the Executive at Islington Council on 24 September.