Local authorities have also felt the crunch during 2012, with job losses and the increasing involvement of private-sector firms, the latter often offering mixed results at best.
One of the most high profile failures of a venture designed to cut IT costs was that of Somerset County Council's Southwest One (SWO). The initiative has been dogged by disputes relating to delayed start dates and late payments. Reports suggested the council wasn't happy with the services provided as part of a 10-year deal with IBM to reduce IT costs, and was preparing for a court battle. A statement provided to Computing by SWO in October said the service is "continuing to provide a robust service to its partners and substantial benefits for taxpayers in the south west region".
Somerset wasn't the only local authority mired in controversy in 2012, with residents unhappy about Barnet Council's decision to outsource back-office services. The 10-year deal with Capita, worth £320m, will see the firm operate council services including IT. Opponents believe that instead of saving taxpayers money, they'll end up paying more. Nonetheless, Barnet insists that the deal, which was signed in December, represents value for money over an alternative strategy of cutting frontline services and jobs.
Taxpayers have also seen public funds used to pay fines, as the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) punished a number of public-sector organisations for data breaches throughout 2012.
The NHS received its first ICO fine in May after the Aneurin Bevan Local Health Board in Pontypool sent a report containing sensitive information to the wrong patient. It was fined £70,000 by the ICO. Torbay NHS Trust also ended up with an ICO fine of £175,000 for a data breach that was deemed "entirely avoidable". The Devon trust had published "sensitive details" about employees online during the previous year.
The fines issued to the NHS came in a year that saw IT directors argue that year-on-year spending cuts would be detrimental to patient care, with IT a vital part of the process.
Away from the NHS, the ICO fined Greater Manchester Police £120,000 after a USB stick containing sensitive information was stolen from an officer's home. A report issued by the ICO this year suggested the public sector was way behind private firms when it comes to data compliance.
So, 2012 was a tough year for the public sector and 2013 does not look like it will be any easier.
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