A political storm is raging over the enforced shut down of Wirral Council’s information technology systems today.
A software problem will create computer disruption for hundreds of council staff for around four hours later today.
Tory group leader Cllr Jeff Green called for an immediate investigation into the failure and seized on the situation to blast the Labour administration for “yet more incompetence.”
Council leader Cllr Phil Davies hit back by claiming that Cllr Green was indulging in “the worst kind of political opportunism.”
Cllr Green said today: “We believe that council chiefs are planning an enforced shutdown of council IT systems this afternoon which would result in hundreds of Council workers unable to carry out their jobs and the people of Wirral unable to access vital council services.
“Council workers have been suffering intermittent IT problems over the course of this week including being unable to log onto systems and incapable of accessing email.
“This is absolutely unacceptable.
"Let us not forget Wirral’s Council Taxpayers were paying £16,000 per month since 28 November 2012 when the Labour Administration agreed to engage an Interim Head of IT.
“Given this huge consultancy fee and the massive increase in spending on IT I have asked for an immediate report on how this gross failure happened and the impact on the public.”
Cllr Green continued: “This is yet more incompetence. This administration have made significant changes to the IT service and brought in, at top whack, an IT consultant; and now the Council’s IT systems are at breaking point.
“After all this money they have spent on just one consultant Labour are now proposing another council tax rise, a reduction in pensioners’ council tax discount and the closure of the Lyndale School. It truly beggars belief.”
Cllr Davies said: “We have got a software problem and we will have to close the system down for about four hours from 3pm.
“We have got alternative arrangements in place; we are trying to minimise inconvenience to the public. Important records are not affected.
He added: “I am absolutely outraged Cllr Green can actually use Lyndale school to criticise me and make political points. It is the worst kind of political opportunism.”
Cllr Davies acknowledged that the council’s IT system was “pretty outdated” but investment had been precluded by massive government cuts.
Cllr Davies said: “We need to look at our capital finances and see if we can afford to do this. We are going to sort this out as quickly as possible – the request will be looked at sympathetically.
“It is clearly important that we have a high quality IT system that works.”
Strategic director for transformation and resources Joe Blott said: “On the advice of the council’s software provider, Microsoft, we are undertaking essential maintenance today to permanently resolve an IT problem, which has been preventing some staff from accessing some of our systems.
“This does not mean that council services will be closed.
"Services will continue to operate while this work is being done and we have effective contingency plans in place to minimise any potential inconvenience to members of the public.
“The maintenance is being undertaken from late afternoon today in order to reduce the impact on the next working week by making use of the weekend.”
- A report to the council’s transformation and resources policy and performance committee next week strongly recommends that the council consider the installation of standby power arrangements at a cost of around £200,000.
- Last September a computer technology disruption caused the loss of both the ICT systems and the council’s telephone system for a 48 hour period.
- It followed an electrical fault on the national grid network causing a Wirral wide supply network voltage dip.
- The disruption left many of the council’s critical services vulnerable as a result of the loss of both electronic data and phone lines.