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Essex County Council plans £360m network upgrade

To enable staff to work more flexibly

Essex County Council is looking to install a new network to support mobile and flexible working among its employees.

In a contract notice, the council said it was looking to spend between £240 million and £360 million on the deal to improve its corporate network and internet speeds.

It believes that boosting the network capability, to support unified communication tools, such as instant messaging and video-conferencing, will enable council staff to move around between sites and work more flexibly.

Essex County Council also plans to convert its telephone systems to IP telephony, which routes calls via the data network, thus removing the need for separate voice networks.

In addition, the new telephony system will allow for incoming phone calls to be routed to desk phones or mobiles without the caller being made aware of it, allowing the council to cut costs by reducing the number of fixed-line telephone handsets.

Last August, the council cut IT jobs as part of its transformation programme to achieve £32 million in cost-savings. They were part of a wider job cull under the council's transformation programme to achieve £300 million over four years by 2012/13.

David Wilde, former CIO for Westminster City Council, joined Essex County Council as head of IT last summer.

Soon after he joined, the council cancelled contract tenders for IT projects worth more than £1 million in total. "Unforeseen" changes in "budget" and "circumstances" were cited as the reasons for the cancellations.

Wilde filled a gap left by former CIO Mark Briggs, who was confirmed to be on indefinite leave from September 2010, amid the council's ongoing transformation programme with IBM.

IBM's eight-year contract with the council was signed in December 2009. The supplier says that the deal forms the cornerstone of the council's plan to divert £300m from back-end processes, property management and procurement, into front-line services.

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