The committee considered an update from the Interim Head of ICT and Digital on the resilience of the ICT data centre services. He explained how the data centre operated, what had caused the service interruptions experienced in quarter three of 2020/21 and the action taken to resolve these issues. He explained the reasons for the recent start-up issue with staff laptops and the action being taken to resolve this.
The Chief Executive clarified that South Cambridgeshire District Council had a partnership agreement with the ICT service and that this was a shared service which was run and owned by the three councils. The partnership agreement had been considered by the Scrutiny and Overview Committee and had been signed off by Cabinet in September 2020.
The Interim Head of ICT explained the decision had been taken to split the data centre between two geographically diverse sites so that if there was an issue in one location, this would not be an issue in the other location. The County Council’s recommendation had been to provide the data centre service from one of its locations in Peterborough. The committee was informed by the Interim Head of ICT that the servers and equipment were as efficient as they could be and that the right balance had been achieved between performance and equipment.
The Interim Head of ICT informed the committee of the following:
· There had been 18 weeks of uninterrupted service since the service interruptions experienced in Quarter 3 of 2020/21. An independent report being carried out would identify any further improvements that could be made to the service.
· All recommended precautions and measures were taken when software updates were applied.
· He assured the committee that steps were being taken to protect the council against ransomware attacks and that this issue was taken very seriously. The Leader informed the committee of a briefing received by the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board on the cyber security programme and the work being done to protect against major cyber attacks. She informed the committee that she would query with the Senior Leadership Team whether this issue was included in the Council’s risk register.
The Lead Cabinet Member for Environmental Health and Licensing informed the committee that he had been asked to take Executive responsibility for ICT issues. He expressed concern about the lack of a service level agreement and that there was not a shared document repository.
The Lead Cabinet Member for Planning expressed concern that the recent ICT outages had significantly affected the Planning service and that many planning officers had been affected by the recent issue with laptops.
Committee members expressed concern about the system’s resilience and that there were no penalties for the service if agreed downtime was exceeded. Committee members also raised concern about the downtime of the Planning Portal, about which some members had received complaints from parish councils who had been unable to access the system to view documentation relating to planning applications.
The committee requested a further ICT update in 3-4 months’ time.
The committee recommended that a service level agreement be put in place, specifying the maximum service downtime.