Council’s new phone upgrades won’t be working until spring

Councillor Jason Rust
Councillor Jason Rust
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NEW phones handed out as part of the council’s troubled new technology contract in November will not be working for another couple of months.

Councillors and council employees based at the City Chambers and Waverley Court have been told the phone upgrade, which should have been completed before Christmas, is now expected to start in “early to late spring”.

The Evening News revealed in August last year that the council’s £186 million new IT system was mired in problems and running up to 18 months late.

New phones are just part of the massive contract changeover from BT to Canadian-based CGI which was announced with much fanfare in 2015.

Conservative group chairman Councillor Jason Rust said the new phones were now sitting on desks alongside the old ones.

He said: “It is quite incredible in 2018 that we are sitting for months with brand new telephones cluttering desks and which are not yet functioning and at what cost.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re told they are out of date by the time they are properly installed. Once again we are faced with an IT project running months behind schedule. It does seem that transformation of any kind is problematic for the council and I hope this lack of preparedness and join-up will be investigated.

“It will ring a bell for many people in terms of the council’s handling of numerous matters.”

The Mitel 5320IP phones have an advertised price of between £55 and £140 each, but are being installed as part of the overall IT project.

An e-mail sent recently to staff and councillors said the telephone upgrade was one of the key programmes in the IT switchover and continued: “We’d hoped that the transformation would have taken place in Waverley Court and City Chambers by the end of December 2017. However, the Project Board needs to be confident that the providers have completed all the preparatory work, to make the transition as smooth as possible for you.

“We expect to start the telephony upgrade for Waverley Court and City Chambers in early to late spring. Please keep both the old and new handsets on your desk.”

At the council’s Governance Risk and Best Value Committee in January, Tory councillor Jim Campbell brandished one of the new phones as he said: “I’ve had this on my desk for the last three months and it doesn’t appear to do 

Justene Ewing, CGI’s lead executive on the contract, told the committee: “CGI recognise our delivery of services has not met your expectations and we’re genuinely very sorry.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The council is working closely with its partner CGI.”