I don't much like having to delve to the level of mud- slinging, deceit and invective which is a regular part of the publicity emanating from a rather desperate - or is that disparate? - Thanet Labour. Having read a report, I assume by Clive Hart, on Thursday's cabinet meeting on Michael Child's weblog, I felt that I had to respond.
Here's the text of the report:
"Despite promising to be brief, Conservative Cabinet member Cllr. Simon Moores gave a long and very laborious speech on this item. In it he also tried to make a political point about Government and the mismanagement of costs concerning IT systems.
Cllr. Peter Campbell also promised to be brief and he was. He simply pointed to 4.1.1 in the report being discussed which said 'The details of associated costs of the ICT Strategy have yet to be identified'. Cllr. Campbell asked if Cllr. Moores had anything to say about a report which clearly showed his scheme was as yet uncosted?
There was a very long silence before Cllr. Moores fumbled together a feeble excuse of a reply! "
I don't fumble, it's not my way, I know my subject and Cllr Hart, whose grasp of ICT is legendary, is somewhat economical with both the truth and the exchange that took place.
For the benefit of readers who might be vaguely interested, here's what I actually said:
"I don’t plan to bore members with a long-winded report on the council’s ICT & Information management strategy but intend plan to offer a condensed summary and accept questions if necessary.
I’m sure all members will accept that the effective use of technology offers local government one of its greatest opportunities in both reducing costs and improving efficiency across all public services, while at the same time the massive increase in government IT spending under New Labour – about 17bn in 2008 – 2009, has had no impact on the productivity of the public sector. One major flaw seems to have been the use of IT merely to automate existing processes, with rarely any savings or improvements in the services delivered. Instead, IT, has, in many cases merely becomes another operating expense sitting on top of everything that was already there before.
If we are to achieve real benefits from the technology we have available here in Thanet, then this demands that complex systems and processes are joined-up, are reliable and resilient and that our customers, the general public, can have their services delivered through a choice of different channels at all times of the day; while the principle of business process automation, reduces the need for personal contact with council staff."
As this was a formal report to council on a 2009 IT strategy which will demand a considerable and sensible supporting budget to be put in place, if accepted, I moved quickly through the headline topics of the technologies involved and concluded:
"The public sector is facing a period of unparalleled financial austerity and effective use of technology becomes even more of a driving force in maintaining services as both the budget and the workforce come under threat. As a result we need to genuinely re-think public service design built around the needs of the citizen and the role that technology plays in enabling that re-design and the consequent operation of the services
The very nature of the public sector and the public procurement procedure invariably means that what we have available to us in terms of information technology is frequently behind the curve, a consequence of the lowest bidder process and often several years out of date. In co-operation with our conscientious and frequently over-worked IT team, and following-on from the strategy document you have in front of you, as a council, we need to be more joined-up in our processes, increasingly smarter in the way in which we apply them and innovative in the way in which we use our existing solutions and partnerships with other authorities.
This is reflected in the strategy document and I hope members will join with me in supporting the vision it presents and recognise the hard work of the officers that lies behind it. "
Cllr Campbell, a councillor for whom I have the greatest respect, asked if the member for finance, Cllr Wise (who is on holiday) was tied-up downstairs because the overall cost of the new ICT strategy was as yet unpublished and Cllr Ezekiel and I both gave an assurance that once the strategy had been fully costed to meet our targets, budgets would be met.
In the surreal world of New Labour where our negelected country is now being run by Peter Mandleson, who happens to be on holiday in Corfu, Cllr Hart's imagination and recollection of the event are true to form.