ST HELENS Council will spend up to £1.5 million to replace its IT equipment, with some schools being given the old devices.

On Wednesday, the council’s cabinet agreed to replace approximately 1,600 IT devices, which it says are now at the end of life.

Traditionally the council has replaced all of its devices at the same time, with them remaining in place for the duration of their usable life cycle.

However, a cabinet report says this approach has limited the council’s ability to embrace new ways of working as they have been “constrained by the device capabilities” until they reach end of life.

The report says this has resulted in the “sporadic” purchase of new devices over the last eighteen months and “uneven demands” on IT staffing resources.

Addressing cabinet on Wednesday, Kate Groucutt, cabinet member for corporate services, estates and communication said: “As you all know, during this prolonged period of austerity the council has continued to prioritise and protect he delivery of our front-line services wherever possible.

“This has meant diverting resources from some of our support and back office functions.

“As a result of this there’s been reduced ongoing investment in the council’s IT infrastructure and now a large proportion of our IT estate of over 2,000 devices have now reached the end of their life and need replacing.”

The cost of the device refresh for the remaining approximately two thirds of the estate will be in the region of £1.25 million to £1.5 million.

This will be funded from the council’s essential equipment fund, a council reserve earmarked for this purpose.

Cabinet also agreed to establish an annual device replacement fund to allow for a planned rolling replacement programme of IT devices going forward.

Cllr Groucutt said this will enable the council to “exploit fully the opportunities digital advancements allow” and ensure the authroity is “modern and fit for purpose”.

St Helens Star: Cllr Kate Groucutt, cabinet member for corporate services, estates and communicationCllr Kate Groucutt, cabinet member for corporate services, estates and communication

To date approximately one third of the  council’s IT devices have already been replaced by more modern technologies.

Currently there are 2,200 IT devices currently in deployment and in use by council officers across the council estate, excluding schools.

The report says since the last refresh, technology has advanced “considerably” and almost seven hundred devices have already been replaced, mainly with Microsoft Surface Pro devices.

“The remaining devices are now out of warranty and need refreshing,” the report says.

“Significantly the Windows 7 operating system is going end of support in 2020 and therefore this refresh needs to ensure that the hardware platform is optimised to support the continued deployment of Windows 10 within the council.”

The proposal, which was agreed by councillors, is to refresh the devices that are now out of warranty with new tablets or lightweight laptops with appropriate peripherals such as a docking station, screen, keyboard and mouse, which will enable all employees to become “agile by default”.

It is intended that the remaining 700 devices be replaced when they come out of warranty.

In addition, it is proposed that the existing IT devices that are now out of warranty but which still have residual practical uses are deployed within a number of the borough’s schools.

Cllr Groucutt said: “In some cases, schools are using devices that are eight or nine years old, and are no longer sustainable and badly need replacing.

“Since we now provide the IT support for 58 of our 66 schools, we are in a unique position to offer these devices on an upgraded basis to these schools for use within the classroom to replace their equipment.”

Cabinet approved the proposals.