The Strata IT Director referred to the report circulated with the agenda. The Covid pandemic and consequential unprecedented working environment had resulted in Strata focusing on providing and delivering the IT service and support to officers and councillors in an exemplary way, and which has enabled Strata to demonstrate its true value. Strata had to increase its skills base to provide the support needed, and had achieved much over the last few months in adapting to the needs of the authorities. This included the creation of community hubs, support with virtual councillor meetings, and moving from office to remote working for officers in a period of about two weeks. This was testament to the standard of infrastructure provided to the authorities and procurement processes to achieve the provision of hardware to enable remote working in a secure way.
In addition, the Committee noted the following: the savings delivered last year were in excess of forecasts set out in the Business Plan at over £1million; the delivery of hybrid meetings was being investigated; the availability and standard of Strata systems has been maintained during the pandemic for most of the time, being stable, reliable, flexible and adaptable to the environment; the majority of staff were still successfully working mainly remotely, with staff migrating back into the office; employee broadband issues were out of Strata’s control; demand for IT services had significantly increased; these had been dealt through the implementation of a new service desk system; and customers were happy with the service delivery based on customer satisfaction survey; support had been given to the Councils’ Members during remote meetings working with democratic services; hybrid meetings were being tested at TDC before investing in other solutions at EDDC and ECC; agile working for TDC was facilitated with the roll out of laptops and docking stations and the purchase of new software to support remote working; digital mailroom was being developed and had increased to deal with remote working which enabled post to be circulated the day of delivery; ECC had brought its leisure centres back in house and Strata were assisting the authority in implementating technology to allow the leisure premises to open again over the next couple of months; the importance of investment in staff resources and IT backup, and security or data, with about 40% of incoming emails being rejected; Strata are currently in the processes of undertaking the annual IT Health Check to enable PSN certification; cyber security training would be rolled out for all authorities; the IT Solutions Delivery was keeping projects on track and helped with delivery; Strata staff had adapted to the Covid situation well, supported Strata visions, were accepting of the need for continuous improvements and development, and have an exceptional low sickness rate; the Board would be considering governance at its next meeting and how the Councils would like Strata to be governed; the 2020-21 Business Plan had been agreed by ECC and EDDC and would be considered by TDC at the end of the month; and the 2021-22 Business Plan was being prepared and would be considered by the three Councils in due course.
In response to questions the Committee were advised on password security; that internet connection of Councillors and remote meetings running on private internet feeds were outside the control of Strata. Strata had no influence or access to the networks to resolve these issues but have given advice and guidance as to how home broadband provision could be improved; an issue with Global Desktop had been identified and was in the process of being resolved but which required software to be loaded onto all council devices of which there were some 2000; and the importance of investing in security systems.
That the report be noted.