G-Cloud purchases less than 1% of county councils' total IT services expenditure

Out-Law News | 04 Jun 2014 | 4:07 pm | 2 min. read

Less than 1% of what county councils in England paid for IT services in the 2012-13 financial year was spent through the 'G-Cloud' framework, according to new figures obtained by an IT business.

Bull Information Systems received freedom of information responses from 26 county councils. The results revealed that nearly £440 million was spent on IT services by the bodies in 2012-13 but that just £385,000 of that total was spent via the G-Cloud, according to the figures shared with Out-Law.com.

The two largest IT spenders during the period among the authorities were Kent County Council and Hampshire County Council. They spent £38.5m and £38m on IT services, respectively. The figures include staff, support service, software and hardware system costs. However, Kent County Council spent only £94,750 in buying services through the G-Cloud. Hampshire’s G-Cloud spend for the period was zero.

However, Hampshire County Council's lack of use of the G-Cloud in 2012-13 was defended by the body's chief information office, Jos Creese.

"Hampshire, for example, had one of the highest G-Cloud spends in 2012 (on capital), but we are now not buying so much as a result of public service cut-backs, so it is not surprising to see lower year on-year operating cost," Creese said, according to a report by Government Computing. "Yet Hampshire has made and will continue to make significant use of the G-Cloud, supporting its development from the outset and working directly with suppliers and the Cabinet office. We expect to see its use increase as it offers new and more flexible ways of contracting for IT goods and services."

"What will make the G-Cloud increasingly attractive will be the flexibility to use it in ways which delivery best value sustainable IT architectures fit for the future," he said. "It becomes more difficult to use if dogma overtakes common-sense,"

According to the Government Computing report, a Kent County Council spokesman said that it preferred to use other channels for procuring IT services because the G-Cloud "is not currently able to offer the time savings, quality assurances and consistency necessary to make it effective". The authority has raised its concerns with the Cabinet Office, the spokesman said.

The G-Cloud programme allows public sector bodies to gain access to cloud-based IT services being offered by a selected list of pre-approved suppliers during a set period. The fifth version of the G-Cloud framework was launched late last month. The stated objectives of the G-Cloud programme include offering a platform for public sector IT buyers to procure commoditised services more easily, as well as encouraging innovation and improved supplier performances.

A recent report by the Major Projects Authority (MPA), a watchdog that oversees government projects, identified the G-Cloud programme as one of a number of government-run IT projects that are in need of action to help those projects achieve their aims.

The UK government's 'cloud first' policy requires central government departments to consider IT solutions offered through the cloud before they consider alternatives. The departments can only deviate from using cloud-based IT solutions where they can show that alternative offerings offer "better value for money" than the products and services available through the 'CloudStore', an online marketplace for cloud IT services linked to the G-Cloud. However, no such policy exists for other public sector bodies.

Earlier this year, Tony Singleton, G-Cloud and digital commercial programme director at the Cabinet Office, admitted that the government needs to raise awareness of the savings and other benefits that using the G-Cloud can bring to public sector bodies.

Singleton said that public sector IT buyers can make 50% savings by procuring through the G-Cloud as well as access a range of other benefits. These include "greater transparency; flexibility; a simpler, clearer, faster way to buy and ultimately better value for the taxpayer", he said in April.