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Essex County Council targets £1.2m savings with network deal

In recent years the council faced legal action after terminating a network contract with BT

Essex County Council hopes to save £1.2 million a year with a framework agreement for next generation network (NGN) services that will also be available to other public sector bodies in the East of England.

The range of services that the council is looking to provision is extensive. It includes, but is not limited to, communication services, broadband, conferencing, contact centre services, wireless, video, mobile voice and data services, LAN and gateway services.

Computerworld UK contacted Essex County Council to find out the value of the 10-year contract, and was informed it could reach up to £300 million over the lifetime of the contract.

However, a prior information notice for the agreement went out last month, which indicated that the value of the agreement could reach up to £360 million, including VAT.

The council expects the new network to enable it to save £1.2 million a year over the lifetime of the agreement, regardless of whether or not other public sector bodies participate.

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: "A number of contracts (for issues like telephones, mobiles, internet, network support and so on) are coming to an end in the next 12-18 months. We are looking to do this as one contract rather than a number of smaller ones."

"As a result we have pulled together a number of contracts into one (covering issues like phone line providers, mobile phones, internet providers and school systems) rather than having a number of separate ones. This is currently out to tender."

The spokesperson added: "ECC has put together the tender but has set up a framework to allow other public sector providers across the county to also come in and use the contract for their own services (including CCTV networks)."

The list of bodies that may benefit from the NGN include Essex and Norfolk County Council, NHS bodies, unitary, district, borough and parish councils, fire and rescue authorities, police authorities, educational establishments and voluntary sector charities.

"We are taking the initiative to upgrade out network in order to be able to work more flexibly and more closely with partners," said councillor Peter Martin, leader of Essex County Council.

"The call has gone out to organisations that may be able to provide the service that we require and a decision will be made later in year."

The current notice also outlines that some of the services will require Public Services Network (PSN) compliance, while others at a lower security level will not.

Essex is planning to use services provisioned through the network to create a PSN infrastructure, which it says will "allow seamless and secure connectivity to other public sector organisations within Essex and the wider public sector".

The PSN is core to the government's ICT Strategy with the Cabinet Office estimating it could save up to £130 million a year in central government by 2014. In three years' time the government wants 80 percent of its PC-based staff (four million users) to be using the network.

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.

More recently, Essex County Council also revealed plans to install a new network to support mobile and flexible working among its employees. It suggested that by boosting network capability to support unified communication tools, such as instant messaging and video-conferencing, council staff would be able to easily move between different sites.


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