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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 04/04/2006
Replacement of the Environmental Health System

Waverley Borough Council


[Wards Affected: N/A]

Note pursuant to Section 100B(5) of the Local Government Act 1972

The annexe to this report contains exempt information by virtue of which the public is likely to be excluded during the item to which the report relates, as specified in the following paragraph of the revised Part I of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, namely:-
Summary and purpose:

This reports seeks approval for the purchase of an upgrade to the Council’s Environmental Health computer system from the existing provider.

Environmental implications:

The proposed IT system will enhance the Council’s ability to carry out its duties in protecting Waverley’s environment.

Social / community implications:

Issues of community safety, health and private sector housing will be favourably affected by the implementation of a replacement IT system

E-Government implications:

The proposed system includes an e-government module which will allow residents to raise issues with the Council via the internet.

Resource and legal implications:

The capital programme for 2005/06 contains a provision of 70,000 for the replacement of the current Environmental Health system. Details of system costs are shown at (Exempt) Annexe 1.

Introduction and Background

1. The Council purchased its current Environmental Health system in 1999. MKA Ltd, the supplier of this system was acquired shortly afterwards by MVM, one of its competitors and MVM was itself taken over by Northgate Information Solutions about 3 months ago. Northgate has also recently acquired SX3, the supplier of the Council’s Planning and Building Control systems.

2. The Environmental Health system is used on a daily basis by 20 members of staff and provides facilities for recording enquiries from members of the public, holds information on premises and inspections, allows the monitoring of potentially contaminated land and is used to calculate housing grants. Information is stored in an outdated database management system which resides on a server that is over six years old and consequently the performance of the system is poor.

Requirement for a Replacement System

3. The current system has served the department well but it is nearing the end of its life and notice has been given by the new owners that support for the product will be withdrawn in April 2007. In anticipation of this event, the Council decided to invest in a replacement or upgrade of the system during the 2005/06 financial year and a sum of 70,000 was made available in the capital programme for this purpose.

4. Whilst the current system provides valuable support to the department, more recently developed software provides the sorts of facilities which have come to be expected of modern back office support systems. These include:

Efficient task management so that work items can be recorded, assigned to members of staff and monitored Workflow facilities so that tasks are managed according to predefined procedures which ensure that deadlines are met and all stages of work are completed Comprehensive document management which facilitates the production of standard correspondence and keeps records of all outgoing and incoming communications An industry standard Database Management System which protects the integrity and security of data Links to the Council’s corporate address gazetteer which enables cross system enquiries between such systems as Planning, Building Control, Environmental Health and Land Charges Sophisticated reporting tools which provide useful management information and enable the production of government returns Links to a Geographic Information System to allow the visualisation and analysis of data and to aid in the management of contaminated land Facilities to support the e-government agenda by providing modules to allow self service by residents in such areas, for example, as registering complaints or notifying the Council of graffiti and abandoned vehicles

Upgrade or Replace?

5. Officers have spent time reviewing the options for replacing or upgrading the current system and have received in-depth demonstrations from the three suppliers considered to be market leaders in this area. These are:

Supplier Software system

Northgate/MVM M3

Civica/Flare Authority Public Protection

CAPS Solutions Uniform Environmental Health

6. All three systems have large user bases and are supported by companies which have a strong commitment to the public sector. However, on the basis of the demonstrations received and subsequent discussions with suppliers, officers felt that the system from CAPS Solutions did not match their requirements in terms of the functionality offered.

7. On considering the relative merits of the remaining two systems, officers believe that the benefits of staying with Northgate/MVM and upgrading to the latest version of their software are greater than any which might result from changing supplier and system. The reasons behind this can be summarised as follows:

There is a proven upgrade and data conversion path as both systems are owned by the same supplier The majority of Northgate/MVM’s customers, in excess of 90 authorities, have already upgraded from the version currently in use at Waverley to the M3 product. There is, therefore, the likelihood of a reduced timescale as Northgate’s implementation team will be following a “well trodden path” The amount of departmental resource that needs to be committed to the upgrade will be lower than that required for the implementation of a system from a different supplier. Given the current staffing constraints, this is an important advantage. There are advantages to be had from having the same supplier for Environmental Health, Planning and Building Control which would be the case should the Council opt for Northgate. These include the ability to share a gazetteer, carry out cross system enquiries and share a common database management system. There is likely to be a faster learning process as staff will be able to build on their knowledge of the current system

8. In addition to the reasons given above which favour the upgrade path, an analysis of costs also shows that the Northgate/MVM option is cheaper. A full comparison of costs is contained in (Exempt) Annexe 1.

Opportunities for Collaboration

9. Officers have gathered information from authorities across Surrey in order to identify which software providers are being used and whether there is opportunity for joint working. This revealed that there is no clear market leading software provider in the county, but that the three providers considered by the officers are the most commonly used. It was clear that the choice of Environmental Health software provider is often based on mirroring the corporate provider for example if MVM/Northgate is used in planning, it is also used in Environmental Health.

10. Officers did not identify another authority embarking on procurement of Environmental Health software at this time, preventing joint working. However, they did identify Elmbridge as an authority that had upgraded to MVM/Northgate and has forged links to learn from their experiences of process implementation.

Risk Analysis and Conclusions

11. An efficient IT system is essential to support the work of the Environmental Health team. The current system offers less functionality than its replacement and is running on outdated hardware. A decision to do nothing is not an option because our suppliers have indicated that they will cease support of the current product in April 2007. The risk of working with an unsupported system is deemed to be unacceptable.

12. Selecting a new supplier introduces extra complexity into the migration to a replacement system. Issues of data conversion and user training are simplified by remaining with the same supplier. Northgate/MVM have already migrated the bulk of their customers, more than ninety of them, to the new version of the software and therefore are well aware of issues relating to data conversion and helping users learn the new system.

13. The success of any software implementation usually hinges on the users’ acceptance of it and their ability to make best use of the new facilities offered. To this end, the correct quantity and quality of training is extremely important. Discussions with Elmbridge BC who have already gone through the Northgate/MVM upgrade process suggest the amount of training included in the migration plan is sufficient. However, since the total cost proposed is well within the budgeted amount of 70,000, the Council in effect has a contingency should further training be required to get the best from the system. Additionally, the appointment of Suzanne Robinson as the implementation champion will ensure effective introduction and transition to an upgraded system.

14. Your officers, having carefully considered the various options available, believe that the Council’s best interests will be served by upgrading to the latest version of the MVM/Northgate system. It is felt that risks can be reduced, the process will be completed more quickly and that the impact on staff will be smaller. It is the conclusion of your officers that the proposal from Northgate/MVM should be accepted.

Procurement Implications

15. If members agree that it is in the Council’s best interests to upgrade the system without recourse to a tendering exercise, it will be necessary to waive the duty to obtain competitive tenders as contained in Contract Procedure Rules. Members may care to regard this as the purchase of proprietary goods, available from one contractor only. This being the case, the procurement can be made under the exceptions contained in CPR Q101(c).


It is recommended that:

1. the proposal to upgrade the existing Environmental Health IT system to the latest version supplied by Northgate Information Solutions Ltd be accepted;

2. the procurement be made under the provisions contained in Contract Procedure Rules Q101(c); and

3. the purchase be funded from the sum of 70,000 contained within the capital programme for 2005/06 for the upgrade of the current Environmental Health System.
Background Papers (DoEL/DoF)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.


Name: Suzanne Robinson Telephone: 01483 523436