Poor practice and cramped budgets heightening security woes
Nearly three quarters of senior local government leaders predict a local government financial crisis post-Brexit. While just over half of local authorities believe that they can deal with a potential cyber-attack on their systems according to new report by PwC.
The Local Government Association is warning the government that it needs to put replacement funds in place for local councils or they will lose services by 2020.
As central government funding is expected to be cut by £2.7 billion in the next two years, concerns are been raised that underfunded councils will be inadequately equipped to deal with cyber-security threats going forward.
In their annual report ‘Local State We’re In’ PwC researched local councils across Britain and found that only 40 percent of those interviewed believed that their employees “exhibit robust cyber security behaviours at work.’’
This potentially leaves vulnerabilities within local government IT due to a combination of bad practice by nearly 60 percent of local authorities employees and ever-tightening purse strings.
The report highlights concerns of local managers that they are unprepared financially with 9 in 10 council leaders believing that some local governments will face: ‘’serious financial difficulties in the next 3-5 years’’ While 81 per cent of local leaders don’t believe that they can provide service delivery and deliver savings over the next 5 years.
A report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies also backs up the concerns of council leaders as it found that: ‘’Councils in England have seen an average real-terms cut of almost 26% to their funding since 2009–10.’’
While councils have some reserves, they were expected to start drawing from those reserves in 2017 with cuts to service spending predicted to reach 22 percent in the same year.
Funding cuts in local councils were supposed to be offset by new rules which dictate that local authorities can retain all of its income from business rate taxes by 2020. However these new sources of income for local governments will not be in place by 2020, while at the same time funding cuts put considerable pressure on strained council budgets.
However, local governments are positive when it comes to the impact that technologies will have on community engagement as the PwC report notes: ‘’80% expect digital to facilitate improvements to service delivery.’’ Although only 3 out of 10 think that their council is in a place where they can incorporate emerging technology such as robotics and Artificial Intelligence into their systems.
Migrating to the Cloud
Local authority adoption of IT infrastructure such as cloud based storage has also been slow to be rolled out. In a report by Citrix Systems based on a Freedom of Information request (FOI) they found that out of the 40 councils who responded to their FOI, 80 percent still managed data in some form in-house, with only eight percent confirming that they managed all data in the cloud.
In an academic report published in Information System Frontiers researchers found that: ‘’Public sector organisations in the UK have been put under pressure by central government to embrace cloud computing to capitalise on its rewards.’’
They also highlighted risks inherent in migrating to the cloud such as, a loss of complete control over the data as some responsibility is moved to the cloud service provider, natural disasters could result in partial or complete loss of data and early financial pressures built into the setup cost of new IT infrastructure.
Whatever readers’ take on cloud migration, with budgets being squeezed this hard, it is clear that local authority IT infrastructure is at real risk of getting even more vulnerable.