Why have Aylesbury Vale District Council approved a £1.4m IT project?

The district council, which is set to be abolished in 2020 has been critisised for waiting nearly 1.5m in a new IT project, while also raising council tax to the maximum threshold.
The district council, which is set to be abolished in 2020 has been critisised for waiting nearly 1.5m in a new IT project, while also raising council tax to the maximum threshold.

The district council, which is set to be abolished in 2020 has been critisised for waiting nearly £1.5m in a new IT project, while also raising council tax to the maximum threshold.

The new budget will increases the annual council tax by the maximum permissible, £5.00 (3.35%) at Band D.

The report highlights the key uncertainties caused by Brexit and James Brokenshire’s unitary decision along with ‘general economic conditions’.

Critics of the budget are questioning why AVDC are ploughing another £1.48m into ‘Connected Knowledge’ - an internal IT programme to update the council’s IT systems.

It is uncertain as to whether the unitary will use or want the systems they develop in the new ‘super council’.

The budget report highlights that there were concerns from finance and services department about whether the expenditure would ‘add value’ to the new organisation and not represent ‘abortive or wasted spend’.

The connected knowledge programme will be paid for by the ‘new homes bonus’ - a grants system awarded by central government for the building of homes in a local authorities area.

AVDC is set to receive £5.9 million next year from this because of housing growth already delivered in the area.

AVDC however maintain that the ‘Connected Knowledge’ strategy fits in with unitary plans.

Anders Christensen, Liberal Democrat leader of the district council, said: “In many ways the budget is an important mile stone for our new unitary council as it marks the last budget for AVDC. This was an opportunity to set the tone and prepare AVDC for the changes ahead.

“Instead we got a budget that continues to plan for a medium term that is no longer relevant. We got £1.4m of tax payers money spent on IT projects and internal change that no one knows will be wanted or needed in 15 months time. We got the maximum possible tax increase for the 4th year running.

“The budget also continues the double taxation of Aylesbury residents (called Special Expenses) Conservative-run AVDC continues to hold onto Aylesbury’s community assets, like parks and community centres, even though it has been clearly shown the town council can provide such services at better quality and lower cost to tax payers.

“It’s the worst form of political dogma that disadvantages the residents of Aylesbury.”

Cllr Howard Mordue, cabinet member for finance and resources, said: “Connected Knowledge is our digital strategy that puts the customer at the heart of our service delivery. (More information about the strategy can be found at: www.aylesburyvaledc.gov.uk/technology-strategy)

“The work that has been delivered to date has enabled AVDC to deliver improved online and automated services, including using artificial intelligence to assist staff in answering customer queries quicker and more accurately.

“Delivering improved services enables AVDC to meet customer needs and increasing service expectations.

“In addition, by implementing more adaptive and innovative technology, we have enabled our staff to be more flexible in their working patterns and to work where they need to work.

“The additional funding of the Connected Knowledge programme will continue to improve services for customers, and the programme governance will ensure what we are doing has a strong business case and long life - beyond the date for unitary.

“AVDC is required to hand its services over in the best possible way and total integration will take us beyond

May 2020, meanwhile we will make sure our services can continue.”