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Posted: 8/8/2012
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London boroughs of Havering, Newham, and Waltham Forest Councils Cut Costs Significantly Through Joint Working and Reusing Web Solutions

Three east London boroughs—Havering, Newham, and Waltham Forest—joined forces to develop a shared citizen services platform using Microsoft technologies. They have established a joint development board—a first in United Kingdom local government—for design, development, and implementation of advanced customer relationship management and web technologies at an affordable cost. In the first phase of the development, cashable savings of £1.6 million (U.S.$2.6 million) have already been achieved in Havering. Newham has realised £12 million savings through joint working and its customer access programme for “digital by default” services. Citizens now conduct many more transactions online, including council tax, parking permits, and housing benefit claims. Other services—including adult social care, planning, and building control—are due to follow.


Public sector funding reductions in the United Kingdom (U.K.) have encouraged local authorities to change their delivery and operating models for customer services. But technological change is only effective if it is coupled with cultural change and a new approach to collaboration among councils. Havering, Newham, and Waltham Forest—three east London boroughs, with a joint population of 693,000—have succeeded in forging a unique partnership in shared information and communications technology (ICT) solutions using Microsoft technologies.

All three local authorities have tough individual cashable savings targets. Cheryl Bennett, Transformation Programme Manager at Havering Council, says: “What would you rather do when faced with funding cuts—identify cost avoidance initiatives in ICT or scrap the ‘meals-on-wheels’ service for older people?”

* Our joint vision is to use the same products, deploy them in the same way, and share design, process, code, and support arrangements. Possibly a first in U.K. local and regional government. *

Geoff Connell
Head of ICT
Havering and Newham councils

Collaboration among authorities is part of the solution. Geoff Connell, Head of ICT at both Havering and Newham councils, says: “Our joint vision is to use the same products, deploy them in the same way, and share design, process, code, and support arrangements. Possibly a first in U.K. local and regional government.”

However, delivering challenging technology-driven change programmes, particularly in customer services, involves encouraging as many people as possible to go online instead of using the telephone or engaging in face-to-face contact with council officers—supporting the government’s “digital by default” initiative. In 2011, Newham and Havering standardised on a customer relationship management system using Microsoft technologies, but more needed to be done to drive greater numbers of citizens to use the web. The three councils started with the most commonly used services, including council tax payment, housing benefit applications, and highways and public realm complaints.

Bennett says: “Previously, local authorities had information websites. What everyone now wants is to make the web the new face of our councils. The existing website had a huge hierarchical structure that was hard to maintain—site authors would spend a lot of time managing this rather than the site content. It was structured in such a way that people rarely used it for online transactions.”

Havering took the lead on repurposing the website, but with the intention of sharing the resulting design and deliverables with its partner authorities. Bennett says: “We set out to create a reusable website. We now have a website that is genuinely reusable, with minimal changes. Havering and Waltham Forest have moved over to it and Newham is about to join.”


The three councils, which are part of a delivery unit called East London Solutions, funded by a U.K. government grant, recognise that collaboration involves giving up a degree of local control. To avoid the risk of duplicating effort, the three authorities have built good governance into the solution through a joint development board, which meets every month. Graham Bell, Chief Information Officer, Waltham Forest Council, says: “Although we no longer have sole control over the solutions, we gain immeasurably from joint working with the other boroughs in terms of quality and speed of development.”

The councils are using the Microsoft Connected Government Framework as the development platform for the transformation programme. Built on the Microsoft .NET 3.5 Framework and open standards such as XML, the Microsoft Connected Government Framework provides an underlying layer to a local authority infrastructure. The Connected Government Framework connects existing applications by using powerful web services to streamline processes, improve communication, and increase the flow of information and content across the organisations.

Bennett says: “Each authority is at a different stage in the process. We wanted to divide up the work in the best way possible and also share out the costs of development. Our focus in Havering was to get everything that was useful from the existing website into a new format and fit for purpose as soon as possible.”

* Infusion was engaged to develop a local government website with Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 using the Local Government Services List (LGSL)—a collection of services that councils provide to citizens. *

Kevin Lasitz
Vice President, Sales and Business Development

The three councils turned to Infusion, a global IT firm and Microsoft Gold Partner, specialising in citizen service platform technologies for the public sector. Kevin Lasitz, Vice President, Sales and Business Development, Infusion, says: “Infusion was engaged to develop a local government website with Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 using the Local Government Services List (LGSL)—a collection of services that councils provide to citizens.”

The LGSL allows all the information to be joined together and gives the website structure and consistency with other local government websites. Lasitz says: “Built for use by local government, the council’s website is customised to this centralised list, which is a template for what services need to be included, improving accessibility to information.”

In the case of the three councils, Havering took the lead while Waltham Forest customised the site using the existing code in its own SharePoint Server system. Newham initially focused on the development of a transactional web portal based on SharePoint Server, and is now implementing the shared website. The Havering solution can be reused for any other service-centric local government website with only rebranding and content migration to consider. Lasitz adds: “This allows councils to build their own SharePoint Server 2010 websites quickly and cost effectively.”


With the Microsoft Connected Government Framework, three London boroughs have standardised on a single development platform to transform customer services with shared solutions for citizen service delivery and digital engagement. The improved websites are encouraging more people—and, in future, will hopefully encourage businesses—to handle routine transactions via the web instead of by telephone or in person. Havering has already achieved £1.6 million (U.S.$2.6 million) in the first phase, with development costs for all three councils kept low by reusing solutions and sharing best practices.

Improved Websites Encourage Channel Shifting and Help Avoid Costs

Action and transaction-based websites pioneered by Havering, Newham, and Waltham Forest are being implemented with a Wikipedia approach—a single page for each directorate and smart search capabilities, making services easy to find. With an improved look and feel to the website, citizens are already responding positively by going online first.

The reduction in cost to the councils for getting someone to use the website rather than phoning the council is around 7 pence as opposed to £7 for a telephone caller. Bennett says: “We’ve designed the solutions so they’re tightly integrated. In phase one, we estimate that our programme in Havering alone achieved £1.6 million in reduced front and back-office costs. While it’s still early days, the biggest benefit has been the cashable savings from working in partnership—in some cases, costs are halved and in others they’re reduced by two thirds. Channel shift will produce further cashable savings.”

New Website Eases the Burden of Writing Site Content

Content management, which was previously a significant challenge for Havering and the other two local authorities, is now far more manageable. The number of pages in Havering that need authoring has been significantly reduced from around 12,000 to 600 service-specific pages. Authors in all the councils find that they can get content written and approved much faster. Lasitz says: “Site navigation has improved significantly, with users easily finding the specific content they want through the service directory.”

* We’ve designed the solutions so they’re tightly integrated. In phase one, we estimate that our programme in Havering alone achieved £1.6 million in reduced front and back-office costs. *

Cheryl Bennett
Transformation Programme Manager
Havering Council

Citizens Gain Access to Hundreds of Transactional Services Online

In just 12 months, the three local authorities have accelerated the pace of making more transactional services available online to citizens—businesses will also benefit in the next phase of development.

By October 2011 in Havering, 71 business processes—largely to do with street care, highways, council tax, benefits applications, and parking—had already been transformed. The related back-office functions were moved to the council’s customer contact centre, freeing staff to work on redeployment. But with up to 1,000 distinct processes making up the current range of service delivery, there’s more to be done.

Newham calculated that direct service rationalisation resulted in savings of £6.2 million. The majority of these savings came from the restructuring of customer services and new ways of working in the revenues and benefits unit. Reduced overheads on buildings and savings from improved transactions delivered around £800,000. In addition, service-based transformation for children’s services, adult social care, and environmental services, among others, will deliver another £8 million.

A good example of enhanced service delivery is the Waltham Forest pest control business unit. Warren Strother, Transformation Programme Manager for the council, says: “Currently, the process for handling a complaint to the pest control service can take up to 20 minutes, with the contact centre agent having to work through three non-integrated systems. With the new system, the agent enters the customer’s information just once, an appointment is automatically created, and information copied to payment.”

Since the end of 2011, the number of services online has increased to around 90 in each of the three authorities. And, in phase two of the rollout, the councils will include more complex services such as elected members enquiries or requests for service on behalf of their constituents, adult social care, and planning and building control.

Staff Respond Positively to Changes in Customer Services Delivery

Elected members in the three authorities have been anxious to know how the changes have affected staff. Bennett says: “The rate of change is being managed to ensure staff can absorb the new ways of working. Each day, staff are becoming more confident in using the new solutions.”

Experienced Microsoft Partner Offers Added Value to Solution

With its knowledge of customising citizen service platforms, Infusion has become a trusted adviser and business partner to the three authorities.

Bennett says: “Each of the authorities has used the same underlying technical design. Infusion has worked very closely with us to ensure reuse and has developed some great tools. We’ve really enjoyed working with Infusion, particularly because of its proactive attitude. We now plan to move to the cloud, achieving further cashable savings, avoiding the need for hardware replacement, and lowering data-centre costs.”

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Solution Overview

Organization Size: 15000 employees

Organization Profile

The east London boroughs of Havering, Newham, and Waltham Forest deliver citizen services to nearly 700,000 people in the United Kingdom.

Business Situation

Havering, Newham, and Waltham Forest wanted to join together to share best practices in the rollout of “digital by default” solutions for customer services to residents and businesses.


The councils worked with Microsoft Partner Infusion to develop new web-based services using the Microsoft Connected Government Framework and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010.


  • Improved website boosts channel shift
  • Staff create web content easily
  • Citizens access services online
  • Staff respond positively
  • Experienced Microsoft Partner adds value

Software and Services
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010

Vertical Industries
  • Public Sector
  • Government

United Kingdom

Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Cost Containment
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Enterprise Web and Search
  • Support and Services
  • Data Protection and Recovery

IT Issue
  • Development
  • Personal Productivity