Cumbria County Council is considering how best to use third-party help to meet e-government targets and stay within its £10m annual IT spend.
Following an internal review the council concluded that already rising IT costs will increase even further unless an expert IT provider is strategically partnered or used as an outsourcer. The council has already posted a tender in its search for a partner.
Alan Cook, project manager at Cumbria County Council, said the authority has yet to make a decision on which route to take. "We've not decided whether to create a limited company [with a partner] or to take on an outsourcer," he added.
With central government as well as individual departments setting online targets, the council has decided that third-party skills will help keep costs down and service levels up.
"It may cost a few million more to provide the services and meet online targets but we think that, by working with a partner, the service improvement will be better than if did this in-house," said Cook.
More and more councils are involved in strategic partnerships with IT suppliers in joint ventures, with cost savings, innovation and even profits as the incentives of this alternative to outsourcing.
Kate Mountain, chief executive at local government IT group Socitm, said the choice between strategic partnering and outsourcing depends on the attitude of individual local authorities to "risks and rewards".
"The risk of strategic partnerships is higher but the benefits can be better," she explained. "But if a council wants a more straightforward development they will probably choose outsourcing."
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