Essex County Council signs £81 million PSN contract

Essex County Council says it is set to deliver enhanced ICT services to around 200,000 users through an £81 million next generation network (NGN) contract, whilst also reducing expenditure.

Daisy Updata Communications has been awarded a NGN contract to manage and develop the IT network infrastructure and associated telephony services for a ten year period. The contract award comes after a procurement process which had previously suggested the cost could be higher to provide the services required.

The supplier is a joint venture between Daisy Group, a supplier of unified business communications services, and Updata Infrastructure, a provider of network systems to the public sector.

Built to public sector network (PSN) standards, the NGN will initially establish a single network with connectivity to schools, local district, borough and unitary councils, and Essex police and fire services.

Essex says the NGN will also have the capacity to "quickly encompass other public sector bodies", spanning the NHS and the third sector, including charities. The council also says it will reduce expenditure on network and telephony services, whilst ensuring a "future-proofed, robust and fully managed service".

The ten year Essex contract however now goes against the grain of public sector thinking, with public sector IT managers association Socitm recommending that councils sign shorter contracts to maximise savings and keep suppliers on their toes. This line of thinking was in response to previous failed public sector IT contracts.

Then again, even shorter contracts can lead to problems. In 2009 Essex County Council was embroiled in controversy after it terminated a four-year IT support and networks deal with BT only six months into the contract.

BT threatened legal action, claiming that the contract had been terminated unlawfully, but the council defended its decision by arguing that it had not been delivering value for money.

The new Essex contract covers unified communications, video conferencing and fixed telephony to support flexible working.

David Wilde, CIO at Essex County Council, said, "The new infrastructure and commercial model are flexible and will be available for use by the public sector in Essex and the wider region, including other local authorities, the NHS, the fire and rescue service and charities.

"We are absolutely committed to sharing services and collaborating with our partners and neighbours, and clearly the most cost effective way of doing that is across a shared infrastructure."

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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