IT public services professional body Socitm has come to the defence of councils that shun G-Cloud, stating that they are not "wasting millions" just because they are not using the framework to procure products and services.
Earlier this week, results from a freedom of information (FOI) request made by Bull Information Systems showed that total IT spend across 26 UK councils in the last financial year was almost £440m, and that only £385,000, or one per cent of it, was spent using G-Cloud.
Bull Information Systems concluded that councils may either not understand the potential benefits of the G-Cloud or are underwhelmed by it altogether. It suggested that councils were spending too much on IT, in an uncontrolled way, and claimed that as only a minimal amount of this was going through the G-Cloud, the "prognosis for change does not look good".
One example of this was Bull's suggestion that by not using G-Cloud, local councils are missing out on the savings that the cloud model offers.
"Low G-Cloud use does not correlate with low use of cloud services, and indeed many councils are using cloud services from other procurement frameworks or procured directly from vendors like Google," said Socitm.
The organisation added that much of the software used by local authorities to support key lines of business such as systems to support planning, housing or social care services is not available on the G-Cloud, and claimed that large local authorities have significant in-house capability to provide IT infrastructure and services, which can be a more cost-effective route than buying in external services - including cloud-based services.
Socitm said that the data covered only one year and therefore did not capture "significant one-off spending through the G-Cloud". It cited Hampshire County Council as an example of this in 2011-12.
It said that the G-Cloud was established to primarily address problems with central government IT procurement and deployment practice, and that it is not always the most cost-effective solution for councils.
For example, Kent County Council told Socitm that it had used G-Cloud to procure some software, but that the framework is not currently able to offer the same time savings, quality assurances and consistency necessary to make it effective.
"We have raised these issues with the Cabinet Office and believe that until these are addressed, the G-Cloud does not offer the best route for sourcing software for local authorities," the council said.
Martin Ferguson, head of policy at Socitm, said that he believed G-Cloud is already a useful procurement framework but that it is still in is infancy.
"What will make the G-Cloud increasingly attractive will be the flexibility to use it in ways which deliver best value and sustainable IT architectures fit for the future, especially where these impact on councils' increasing need to join up and deliver services with partners in health, police, voluntary and other sectors.
"It is also the case that the biggest beneficiaries of cloud computing, and G-Cloud as a procurement vehicle, are likely to be the smaller public service organisations, which were not covered in the FOI research carried out by Bull," he said.
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