Portsmouth City Council: it’s your call

“We can save time & connect with people much more easily than before.”

Mel Burns, Head of IT, Portsmouth City Council


Operational goals

Portsmouth City Council sought an IP telephony system that was easy to use, helped cut costs and boosted productivity. They also wanted to meet public demand and provide the ‘human touch’ by creating ‘one-stop-shop’ citizen helpdesks.

Virgin Media Business Digital Solution

We installed an IP Telephony System.


Consolidated office space and big savings, with increased availability of public services. The Council has also been able to support users more easily and improve the flow of information – enabling them to adjust call centre working hours to meet peaks and troughs in demand. Now, the Council can communicate with the local community better than ever before.


Digital aims and operational goals

Portsmouth City Council was feeling the strain of outdated telephone systems. Its old communication system was putting a barrier between the Council and the local community and it was becoming difficult to maintain. Portsmouth needed to give its telephone system a digital facelift. A new IP telephony system now gives staff the right tools to communicate – both in the office and on the go. As a result, the Council has improved frontline communication with the community and made big cost savings.

Portsmouth City Council is the hub of the local community. It’s incredibly important for the Council to be able to provide the best support and advice to citizens at all times. To improve communication and cut costs, Portsmouth City Council wanted to replace the outdated analogue telephone systems with a range of fixed and mobile, internet-based alternatives. This has given staff much more flexibility and enabled the IT team to make huge savings. Now they’re able to spend time innovating rather than patching up old IT equipment.

Portsmouth City Council is the community’s backbone, offering support on everything from recycling queries and noise control complaints, to urgent social services call-outs. As such, the phones at its city helpdesk never stop ringing. Telephone is still the most popular way for people to get in touch with the Council, but the 14 year old telephony system failed to provide the flexibility staff needed to meet this demand. Portsmouth City Council needed a change.

Our role

So they bought a new system. And the purchase was made through HPSN2 – a shared framework agreement that provides a more efficient and modernised way of acquiring IT services for local councils across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. This meant that Portsmouth City Council didn’t incur the costs and man hours that can come with managing a purchase of this nature.

“Our decision to partner with Virgin Media Business was an easy one. Virgin Media Business has close ties with our vendor of choice (Cisco) and this will give the system that extra boost it really needs to exploit advances in technology,” said Mel Burns Head of IT, Portsmouth City Council.”

Being desk-bound was a big problem for Council staff. They were tied to their fixed lines, but with the new IP telephony system they now have a single number, so staff can now be contacted easily, no matter where they are. Plans for an internal shake-up also heightened the need for a new phone system. The plan aimed to bring more departments into the Civic Centre’s central office, saving money and providing a one-stop-shop for the public. A move like this can often be stressful, but because of the new telephony system, disruption was minimal.

The switchover took place in one go, without any disturbance to the staff or the local community. In fact, most people didn’t even notice!

“We recently closed one of our major sites in a bid to consolidate office space. During the move, technology used by over 125 staff in the old building was transferred into the new offices over a single weekend – with telephones up and running by Monday morning,” said Sean Ellicott, Operations Manager at Portsmouth City Council. “The new telephones made the move much less stressful than it could have been, and staff were up and running again really quickly.”

“The new IP system lets us do things we could never do before. In the past, we had full-time staff dedicated to managing our telephony systems, but the new system requires minimal maintenance,” said Simon Whitworth, Network Architect at Portsmouth City Council. “We can now also adjust working hours for peak times and rescale technicians as and when we need them. This has not only improved customer service but has also made our staff’s lives a lot easier.”


The Council’s top priority is making sure that residents can communicate with various departments quickly, easily and effectively. The new IP telephony platform has helped Portsmouth consolidate its call centres, cutting costs and making life easier for staff and the public.

“One of the most useful things is having a corporate directory. Staff can access a database of 53,000 contact numbers and extensions – at the click of a button,” said Dominic Allen, Project Manager at Portsmouth City Council. “This means we can save time and connect with people much more easily than before.”

Portsmouth City Council has already saved around £1 million by buying the telephone system through HPSN2. That’s because the framework agreement allows partners to access IT services, without the need to enter into lengthy and costly tendering processes. This makes it simpler and more affordable to deploy new technology – a win-win situation for the Council. And since all telephone systems are digital there’s no need to add more voice infrastructure each time there’s an office move or when more lines are needed. Portsmouth estimates that the new system has enabled them to significantly cut costs and energy consumption, in line with their green agenda.

“Our decision to partner with Virgin Media Business was an easy one. Virgin Media Business has close ties with our vendor of choice (Cisco) and this will give the system that extra boost it really needs to exploit advances in technology,” commented Mel. “In the near future, we intend to add HD video conferencing to our network, which will give us the ability to attend meetings without leaving the office. This means we’ll be able to decrease costs and our carbon footprint more than ever before.”

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