At a glance
With a need to work to tighter budgets and use technology to improve services across the community, local governments have been coming together to innovate and get the best of both worlds. The Cambridgeshire Public Services Network (CPSN) is a framework initiative that’s been doing just that. And, it’s seeing real success by getting more and more partners to use it and so spread improvements to all corners of the county - as far out as neighbouring counties like Bedfordshire. It now gives staff the right tools to deliver better services to citizens and public sector personnel, while making savings of up to 50 per cent.
- Organisation: Cambridgeshire County Council
- Industry sector: Education, emergency services, community services
- Location: Cambridgeshire
- Challenge: Simplify the way faster, secure network services are made available to more public sector organisations, the voluntary sector and people in the community – while reducing operating costs.
- Solution: A PSN shared services initiative
- Products: 10Gbit/s core network
- Benefits: A core network that the whole public sector in the county can share easily, which is improving the quality of technology services available to the community – while working to reduced budgets.
Cambridgeshire has transformed the way it provides communications, meaning people and organisations across the county now enjoy better phone, data and internet services – and it’s all costing less than it did before.
Services can be provided both on-premise or accessed via the cloud, depending on how partners want to share them and which is the most cost-effective way to deliver better technology, so they all get more for less. The Cambridgeshire Public Services Network makes it much easier for all areas of the public sector and voluntary groups to use more advanced technology and provide it to people in the community. By linking together council sites, schools, libraries, children’s centres and community access points across a fibre-optic network, the county has gained access to super fast internet services, cut its bills and helped to improve people’s lives at the same time.
Cambridgeshire County Council is always pushing boundaries to ensure it’s delivering the best possible services to staff and the local community. With the CPSN project, it set itself a tall challenge – reducing IT spend while providing better technology services to staff and citizens. That meant developing a network which was easy for its partners to use too, so that the barriers to accessing the technology were removed and strong partnerships could drive more use of the network around the county. The spirit of the partnership needed to change the way public sector organisations and the voluntary sector worked together to share resources.
The network makes it easier for partners to roll out services and is at the heart of a more collaborative way of working together. The CPSN now has a fibre-optic network linking all of its partners: Bedfordshire and Luton Fire & Rescue Service, Cambridgeshire County Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council, Fenland District Council, Huntingdonshire District Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire & Rescue Service, and groups represented by the Cambridge and District Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Now, staff are well connected, schools have better IT and the network team has even set up community access points. These let local people in rural areas of Cambridgeshire access technology and digital services.
The network story
It all began with the Cambridgeshire Community Network (CCN). This made it easier for schools and local authorities to communicate online at speed. Seeing CCN’s success, the CPSN team wanted to make the network bigger and better, which meant building a network that was really attractive for partners to use.
With the help of Virgin Media Business, Cambridgeshire now has a network that’s capable of increasing internet speeds and data access in more than 200 schools, 32 libraries and more than 50 community access points. And that’s just the beginning. 28 fire stations across the county are now able to enjoy the benefits of using it too. But it’s not just about connection speeds. CPSN also makes it cheaper and much simpler for partners to get services, like web filtering security software, compared to buying it themselves. Being able to buy the framework’s network services from the cloud, means that full security protection comes ‘built-in’ so even the smallest authorities can afford the best security.
CPSN is improving services in the community while reducing county council network bills by a massive £1m each year. It’s doing that through faster, safer internet connections, increased network capacity and improved data, telephone and internet services across offices, schools, community centres and other public premises around Cambridgeshire. And the same economics apply to the county council as to all the partners using the network - the more money saved on communications technology, the more funds are made available to invest in frontline council services. Those services don’t just benefit schools, libraries and offices, but are helping to make lives better for the elderly and vulnerable. And by making it easier to share the services with partners, other resources and even premises can be shared too.
Michael Carey, CPSN Contract and Services Manager, said, “Public sector communications infrastructure has become like the early days of Britain’s railways – before standardisation, all the track was different and it couldn’t be easily connected. Pick a standard, and suddenly the world opens up. All of a sudden, you can stop thinking about the track and focus on the destination. For us and our CPSN partners, shared technology isn’t an end itself, but we’re on track to make the way we deliver services more efficient. It’s already revolutionising the way we work together and our approach to sharing resources. We’ve all got access to better IT, not to mention being much more joined up in the way we deliver to our residents.”
Changing the way we work
CPSN is unlocking the potential for partner organisations to share office space. Hub buildings have been set-up where voluntary and community groups can share facilities as well as being able to share a cup of tea. Multi-agency sites, made possible by the new network, are supporting seamless delivery of services and driving out property costs.
Henry Cressey, Head of ICT, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, said, “CPSN allows us to focus on the ‘business’ in question, not the plumbing that lies beneath it. The potential buying power that comes from joining forces gives every partner a very real reason to participate. The CPSN partnership now includes a highly diverse group of sites and organisations. We’re all doing things with the network that improves what we do and means we spend less money doing so.”
Community, community, community
What’s truly inspiring about this project is the difference it’s making to local people. Cambridgeshire County Council has opened 50 access points in community centres, village halls and other public buildings. People who may not have internet access at home, or who just prefer to socialise while they browse, can now get online near their homes.
The George at Doddington, between Ely and Peterborough, is one place that’s breaking the mould. This pub hosts weekly computer classes where people can access the internet with support from volunteers. It’s a clear example of how sharing technology and making it easier for partners to do the same gives more people access to better services. Without the public sector and voluntary groups working together more closely to take advantage of the network and new technology, it couldn’t happen.
The next chapter in this story is to see the CPSN extend its reach. The team aims to open up the network to other public sector organisations, even beyond the county’s borders. CPSN partners not only stand to save money themselves by using the network, but can also share their services with other current and new partners. This can help cut running costs further, reduce duplication and be more efficient overall. As more and more organisations and people in the community begin to see how better communications can be cheaper and easy to access, CPSN is set to grow even more, and keep making things easy for partners by altering services as their needs evolve.
Michael continued, “CPSN is a great deal for Cambridgeshire. Putting services under one roof helps to cut costs, improves public accessibility and creates ties between organisations so that they can work together for the common good.”
- 50% cost saving compared to the old network with the county council alone saving £1m annually
- Strong partnerships make network access easy and spread benefits into the community
- Accessible and affordable technology services
- Easier organisational change through improved working practices and use of buildings
- Faster 10Gbit/s core network that can be expanded easily
- Helping more people to get online in remote communities
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