Crawley council’s data centre relocation costs spiral

Crawley Town Hall
Crawley Town Hall

A scheme to relocate Crawley Borough Council’s data centre to Surrey is more than a year behind schedule and has cost hundreds of thousands of pounds more than its original budget.

Plans to migrate the data to an outside host site were made in 2015, with work expected to begin by March 2016.

It was scheduled to take six to nine months to complete on a capital budget of £209,000 and £63,300 per year revenue.

A meeting of the council’s audit committee has been told that the work has still not been completed and the costs, as of May 31, stood at more than £700,000.

A report from the council’s internal audit and risk management team stated that capital expenditure had been £461,980, with revenue costs at £426,303. But some costs relating to other IT projects had been incorrectly charged to the data centre migration project, making the actual costs £703,668.78.

The council made the decision to host its data elsewhere following a fire at South Oxfordshire District Council, in January 2015, which completely destroyed the offices.

Keen to ensure Crawley’s IT systems would be protected should such a disaster hit the town hall, approval was given to relocate the data centre to the Surrey Business Centre, as part of a partnership agreement with Surrey County Council.

But the audit team’s report not only highlighted the time and budget shortfalls, it also found the project management arrangements to be weak and raised concerns that the procurement code had not been followed when using consultants.

The meeting was told that some important documentation had been ‘absent’ during the review and some of the project’s key decisions had not been recorded.

Peter Lamb, leader of the council, called the report ‘a wake-up call’.

He added: “It is something we take seriously and we have done since it was raised.

“We do have to do something to improve the resilience of the organisation. We can’t be in a position where we could lose all that data.

“That would be unforgivable.”

Members were told that 32 servers had been decommissioned and 60 had so far been migrated, with another 27 to follow.

While the report said the work was expected to be completed in August, officers were unwilling to be held to a definite date as the council was currently ‘at the mercy of BT’ to install some necessary lines, after Virgin had failed to deliver.

Members were told that an independent review of the project had been recommended to determine whether or not the new data centre arrangements represented value for money and met the expectations and requirements of the council.

Karen Sudan (Lab, West Green), chairing the meeting, said: “I’m worried about this project now. It’s been going on since 2015 and we were told it would take a few months.

“It’s now 2018. We don’t want it to be 2019 and be saying it’s still not complete.”

Richard Burrett (Con, Pound Hill North) said the report ‘concerned’ him, adding: “It does bother me that this has gone on for so long and there’s no closure yet.”

Mr Lamb said he looked forward to seeing what the review said.