back to article A freshly formed English council waves £18m at UK tech industry, asks: Can somebody design and run pretty much everything for us?

Barely 18 months old, newly formed Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council has offered £18m to private sector IT and consultancy firms, asking if they can take on, well, almost everything. The unitary authority in England's south-coast county of Dorset is looking for a "strategic implementation partner" to help design its …

  1. Gene Cash Silver badge


    That's an arbitrary figure. Did they look in their accounts and that was the total cash-on-hand?

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: £18m?

      It's probably the figure their preferred partner came up with, just that they have to go through the public procurement process to be able to award the contract...

      From the requirements list, it seems that a consultancy with an enterprise architecture capability is needed.

    2. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: £18m?

      Shirley BCP Councils prior ran some IT. Do they not have 3x IT functions already??

      Perhaps give it a year or so as a merged organisation and figure shit out before spaffing outsourced IT money’s up the wall.

      Or choose 1 existing that half works and junk the other 2 and consolidate around that.

      1. NeilPost Silver badge

        Re: £18m?

        or find a friendly compatible council and do shared services on their existing **working** platforms ??

  2. Tim99 Silver badge


    It must be a standard set of requirements by now... My late father was the Treasurer to our (smallish) local authority. He was responsible for the installation of one of the first local authority systems (in the mid/late 1960s, Burroughs?). It’s main job was to look after the rates, and pay bills and salaries - It worked. I was just getting into science/technology then, and was allowed to go and see it working in its own room. The manufacturer was sufficiently pleased that it was used as a reference site, and for some reason "gave" them an ANITA calculator to "check everything was OK" - I think that cost about £400. He took early retirement when local authorities were reorganised in 1973. He predicted that the new large authorities would become an inefficient bureaucratic mess, so he grabbed the pension and left. When he left he was allowed to buy the ANITA for £5, and was still using it in 1991.

    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: Standard?

      But surely they already do this .. just x3 times as separate councils ??

  3. martinusher Silver badge

    Of course they can.....

    Even if the figure is lowballed because its not the up front cost that are important, its what the recurring costs will be. Its like the archtypical pusher -- once the victim is 'hooked' then they'll never get free and you can pretty much charge anything you want.

    Cloud services are just a modern form of time sharing. You pay based on your usage and costs can escalate rapidly as you move from tier to tier. The vendors have every reason to push the advantages of the cloud -- and there are real advantages with regard to reliability and scalability (until there's an outage.....) -- but they rely on you not really appreciating the fine print until its too late.

    After all, its said that Amazon doesn't make much money from its mail order business. The real money's in the infrastructure -- AWS. Same with Microsoft and their cloud based Office products -- never sell someone something that you can rent to them instead (a notion pioneered by Herman Hollerith).

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: Of course they can.....

      its said that Amazon doesn't make much money from its mail order business. The real money's in the infrastructure

      I went and had a peek. AWS accounts for around 12% of Amazon's annual revenue, but provides 57% of its operating income. So Amazon do make a lot of money from retail sales, but have highly attractive margins on their cloud services.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reaches for popcorn

  5. Bitsminer Silver badge

    Did they define the purpose?

    Is all this money going to be spent on a defined system, with a useful purpose, within a defined schedule?

    Is that asking too much?


  6. OssianScotland


    Is 18m enough to attract the hyenas that are Crapita, or are they only after bigger fish? If so, it may be a lucky escape

  7. Nunyabiznes


    Sounds like they want everything done for them, therefore the best thing to do would be to sack the lot of them and just have a corporate entity come in and take over the Council. The taxpayers would probably come out ahead.

    Then the Corporation could contract out the political jobs. At least it would be more transparent who was bossing who.

    1. Spoonsinger

      Re: Privatise

      Councils are municipal corporations. (Self governing entities under the laws of the state).

  8. Rol

    This bit of England didn't just emerge out of the sea last week, it has been around for a long time. Time enough for the disparate regions to have formed the relationships the new authority is looking for. IT solutions that have been working well in one area should obviously be contenders for the expanded regime.

    What does look a little suspicious, is the daunting list of requirements, that would scare your average IT provider off of delivering a quote, and it seems it has been written with one IT provider in mind. A provider that has a proven track record in promising the Earth and delivering nothing other than dividends to its shareholders.

    I recommend buying stocks in brown envelopes, as it looks like there might be a rush coming. Yeah, a bit cynical, but surely a company that fails that regularly and still wins contracts must have something going on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I live here! And just recently read that the leader of the council has been kicked out on a vote of no confidence - on the third attempt!!!

  9. Anonymous Coward


    They will get multiple bids from the usual suspects who will promise to excel or exceed every requirement.

    Then some requirement will change (price goes up, timeline extended). Some document they promised is late (price goes up, timeline extended). It rains (price goes up, timeline extended). Et cetera ad infinitum.

    Then they find out what support costs.

    Good luck with this.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    All they need is an Excel spreadsheet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Simples

      I hear Dido Harding is a safe pair of hands to head up any major IT related project.

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: Simples

        You're not wrong. Baroness Harding quite literally can't fail. Blunders that would sink a normal human just bounce off her.

      2. Richard Cranium

        Re: Simples

        After deducting her pay there'd not be much left from the £18m - but that's OK, it can all be done on an obsolete version of Excel.

      3. Kane Silver badge

        Re: Simples


        Sorry, that involuntary nervous reaction again.

        So sorry, do carry on.

  11. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    "the organisation seeks IT consulting, software development, computer-site planning consultancy, business analysis consultancy, information technology requirements review, accountancy, business management, HR, procurement, and business organisation services "

    So they want a contractor to implement this new system *then* that contractor can tell them what new-new systems to implement? Sound like a chance to print money for a contractor ...

  12. Security nerd #21

    The £18M figure plucked from the air piqued my interest - so 10 minutes of (insert evil search engine name here) later, I see they've recently signed a £14M contract for organic waste disposal, so perhaps related (it will likely be flushed down the drain after all)

    Some interesting information available publicly on what they are current contracted for - with associated mad deals (including 30 year PFI contracts ...)

  13. Eclectic Man Silver badge


    Well now, it reminds me of a bid to a local authority I was involved in. The basically wanted to outsource their entire operation, apart form the bits they had a statutory duty to perform, and get it all cheaper than their current operations.

    I was involved in a Q&A session with the 'client'. They did not know the topology of their IT network. They did not know who had access to their IT network. They did not know what applications were running on their IT network. They did not know to how many or which other networks and systems their IT network was connected. They did not even have the concept that data received from other organisations might be confined to specific uses or recipients in their organisation (even after I had explained it to them in the meeting twice) or be subject to specific security requirements. And yes, I was talking to the IT team.

    The only way we figured out we could make any money was by amalgamating the vehicle maintenance departments. Not enough to pay for the bid team, let alone actually make a profit in the >0.1% range. we lost. After 2 months the 'winner' was held in breach of contract. Never have I been so relieved to lose a bid before or after. No one on our bid team wanted to do it, but for some reason it was one of those 'Senior Director Must Win' projects, who promptly wanted to know exactly why we had wasted so much effort and money bidding for it afterwards. (The answer "because you told us to" was not an option.)

    Ahhh how I [do not] miss senior management.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I was involved when I worked at one of the UK's biggest "household name" businesses. An IT support service had been outsourced on a 3 year contract for about £1m p.a. The "winner", keen for the prestige of capturing the contract, was chosen primarily because their's was the lowest bid, it even represented a small saving compared with the previous in-house team (that saving was more than wiped-out by redundancy money). Of the other 2 who bid for the business both had done their homework better, one of them had some prior experience with part of the job. The winner got well and truly shafted, must have gone way over budget. They were humiliated at joint progress review meetings over the smallest slip-up and those slip-ups used as leverage to squeeze even more out of them. At renewal time their bid was so high as to be a strong signal that they didn't want the work but everything has a price... The others were way above the original £1m p.a., I think the winner was closer to £5m p.a. And of course a new provider then had to spend the first few months finding their way around the location(s), how the systems hang together, who and what is going to need priority attention. The outsourcer's staff all know this is a 3-year gig so constantly on the lookout for a better deal elsewhere leading to a continuous churn, there were problems with security, attitude and standards of behaviour. The company that employs them know that it's relatively short-term too so they skimp on training, have little regard for the long-term and documentation and pay staff as little as possible. Decisions are based on expediency "how little can we do to comply" rather than "what's the best long term approach".

    Better to use a competent well-resourced in-house team. Look after them properly and they're there for the long term, know the systems and the people, they provide what no outsourcer even can: experience, committment and loyalty. Get it right and it will be the cheapest and the best.

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