Agenda item

Modern Workplace Project

To consider the above report



Members considered the Modern Workplace Project proposals.


Councillor Rayner explained that this was the second time the item had come before full Council. A thorough debate had taken place at the September meeting and it had been agreed that further clarification was needed. She thanked the Executive Director for his work on the report since then. Councillor Rayner explained that the current desktop environment had been in place for seven years and was at the end of its useful life, with the impact on staff already clear. The proposals would allow a phased replacement by March 2020 with significant benefits as detailed in paragraph 2.3. Procurement would take place under a framework.


Members noted that approval had previously been given for funding of £530,000 including £69,000 for a pilot. The pilot had identified a number of requirements:


·         16GB of RAM

·         Larger screens with high definition

·         Docking stations at each desk to allow direct network access rather than via Wi-Fi

·         More devices (originally it had been assumed that 100 devices could be re-used)

·         The addition of 67 Optalis staff

·         An increase in basic costs of 30%


The total funding requirements were therefore now £935,000.


Councillor Rayner referred to a number of points that had been raised at the September meeting. Comments about specification had been assessed but it was clear that the pilot had identified an appropriate, revised specification. The council had a policy of depreciation between 4-10 years. It was agreed that a four year period was more reflective for the replacement of IT equipment. The council ran over 300 applications, a number of which required high memory capacity.


Councillor Rayner explained that the current Microsoft Windows version was not supported after January 2020. All licences would be up for renewal in March 2020. If the council carried on under its current licences, this would cost £900,000 more over the next three years.


Councillor Reynolds commented that after his speech at the last meeting he was pleased that other councillors agreed improvements were needed and that some had been made. He believed a different situation could have occurred if a collegiate approach had been taken, however he was only contacted the day before by the Lead Member. Councillor Reynolds accepted that new equipment was needed but felt it could have been done in a better way. The changes did not address the issue of additional borrowing of £403,000. He felt that docking stations, at a cost of £79,560, where nice to have but not if you did not have the money. Monitors, with the same resolution as the current ones, would cost £65,520. The total extra costs could negate the cost savings put forward.


Councillor Reynolds proposed an amendment to the capital funding level in recommendation ii to read:


ii)      Approves additional capital funding of £259,920 in 2019/20.

Councillor Werner seconded the amendment. Members debated the proposed amendment.


Councillor Davey commented that the council was looking for 495 laptops and 72 desktops, which was 567 machines plus 97 for Optalis. The budget started at £250,000. An extra 100 machines were needed at a cost of £50,000 therefore the total was £300,000. There was a 30% increase in price, which meant the total was £390,000. The report therefore requested £603,000, therefore £213,000 or another third, was requested for a bit more RAM.


Finance had changed from a 10 year period to a four year period for depreciation. So instead of £9,072 a year, that was £24,497 a year, which was £7,000 more. The borough then needs to pay back £260,000 a year compared to £102,000 over ten years. Councillor Davey highlighted that CIPFA had been asked to come in and look at the accounts yet the council could now find £150,000 more over four years. He did not think things were being added up correctly and it needed to be looked at again. Personally he would be more confident if an opposition finance team were able to review all finance budgets before they came to full Council.


Councillor Rayner explained that she had spoken to Councillor Reynolds to ensure he knew the report was going to be considered at the Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Panel. The monitors needed to be replaced as the current screens were combined with thin clients and could not be used on their own. Docking stations allowed computers to be connected into the network thereby not overloading the Wi-Fi network. The equipment had been recommended by others using mobile devices.


Councillor Werner commented that money had to be key to what the council was doing. Docking stations should not be necessary if a network cable was used instead therefore this was a very sensible saving to make.


Councillor Hilton explained that the minimum revenue position ensured the council recovered the costs of borrowing over the life of the product. When it had been ten years, which he believed was too long, it would have been 10% of the £935,000 per year. If it were four years, it would be 25% per year. Therefore it was exactly the same sum of money.


Councillor Hill stated that he was pleased the recommendations had changed. He accepted the advice from the technical experts that the Wi-Fi system would be overloaded if docking stations were not used as Wi-Fi was dependent on the signal available and this could waiver, however he would like to see the technical details. He also requested confirmation that the Wi-Fi network would be retained.


Councillor Jones welcomed the changes to the report. She was minded to approve on the basis that she was aware many officers struggled with the Wi-Fi and applications they had to use. She asked for Councillor Reynolds’ comments to be taken on board and requested that technical evidence for screens and docking stations be provided as a written answer. She would be trusting the IT technicians to get it right.


Carole Da Costa commented that her initial thoughts were to make the saving but she had seen the struggles of officers to get the IT to work. Based on the feedback from Councillor Rayner she was minded to support the recommendations.


Councillor Johnson explained as the new Leader he had requested officers look again at the report and he was pleased that major changes had been made. The administration fully supported the report. He highlighted to Members that the bigger picture was the loss of productivity due to a poor digital infrastructure. He was a fiscal Conservative but there was a time for spending to save through enhanced productivity, and he was therefore pleased to support the report. He welcomed the positive comments from Opposition Members. The council was not in the grip of a financial crisis; work was ongoing to address a mid-year overspend.


Councillor Clark highlighted the need to get moving on the proposals due to the increase in software licence costs if the upgrade did not take place.


Councillor Reynolds commented that he had no issue with replacing equipment as officers were struggling but he did not want to buy equipment that was not needed. Ethernet cables could be bought for 40p, negating the need for docking stations.


Members voted on the amendment by a show of hands. The motion fell and Members returned to debating the recommendations in the report.


Councillor Davey stated that the issue was the way the finances were presented, which did not give a proper picture to enable Members to make an assessment. He would be keen to have Opposition Members involved in finance issues before they were presented to full Council.


Councillor Hilton explained that since the original report the Public Works Loan Board had increased interest rates to 2.6% which explained the difference in figures.


Councillor Hill commented that it was a classic commercial play for software licence costs to increase. The council was well placed to get equipment in place before the relevant date in 2020 and not pay the additional £900,000 costs that would be incurred. This additional cost, if incurred, would knock out the savings Councillor Reynolds had proposed within the first six months.


Councillor Shelim explained that the report in September had been brought in his name as the former Lead Member. The council had not spent any money on IT in the last seven years. The trial feedback had made it clear that a number of devices could not be re-used as had been first hoped. Device costs had also increased by 30%. When he had been elected in 2015 he had the opportunity over four years to spend £1000 through the Member ICT allowance. Following the 2019 elections all Members had been offered an iPad instead as an investment in the long term and beneficial to the environment and efficiency. Officers would be given the same level as a necessity.


Councillor Rayner commented that it was her duty to accept the professional advice of officers. She confirmed the Wi-Fi system would be retained. She would be happy to send a written response as Councillor Jones had requested. She highlighted that a breakdown of financing was included in Table 3 of the report; if Councillor Davey wanted further information he was welcome to let her know. Councillor Rayner thanked Councillor Shelim for his work on the original report.


It was proposed by Councillor Rayner, seconded by Councillor Shelim, and:


RESOLVED:That Councilnotes the report and:


i)          Agrees to the bringing forward of £140,000 of capital funding from 2020/21 to 2019/20.


ii)         Approves additional capital funding of £405,000 in 2019/20.

iii)       Delegates to the Executive Director, in agreement with the Lead Member approval to award a contract for the supply of the new equipment.


The meeting was adjourned at 9.00pm for a comfort break. The meeting resumed at 9.05pm.


Councillor Rayner left the meeting.

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