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Call for Shire Hall sale to be reversed after £6.8m data move costs revealed

Campaigners have called for plans to sell the county council’s historic headquarters to be reversed after it was revealed moving a data centre out of the old building could cost more than £6.8 million.

Shire Hall (10905646)
Shire Hall (10905646)

This is on top of the £20 million the council already projects the move out of Shire Hall to the new headquarters in Alconbury Weald will cost.

And the looming 2020 deadline for moving out of the Shire Hall site means the authority will have to consider options that potentially put the council’s IT systems at risk of failure.

Cllr Claire Richards, the local member for Castle and for Shire Hall commented: ''Labour have been fighting the disposal of Shire Hall from the outset. I want to stand up for Cambridge and Cambridgeshire residents, who are facing higher council tax bills and cuts in services, whilst the County Council is planning what increasingly looks like an expensive and rushed move to Alconbury.''

Her colleague, Cllr Jocelynne Scutt, Labour member for Arbury, added: “Not only will services no longer be provided at Shire Hall, impacting on residents throughout the county. The rush to sell and to move to Alconbury means that everyday technology expected to be available to any institution, small or large, is in jeopardy.

“Far from producing a new, modern approach to County business, the "dispose and move" decision puts jobs, services and democracy at risk, and resulting in exorbitant costs. Surely it is not too late to reverse the ill-considered decision to dispose of Shire Hall.'”

Councillor Jocelynne Scutt calls for sale of Shire Hall to be reversed (10906788)
Councillor Jocelynne Scutt calls for sale of Shire Hall to be reversed (10906788)

The move from Cambridge to new headquarters being built in Alconbury Weald is reported to be costing £20 million. But that is before the extra costs of moving the data centre, which a report going before the General Purposes Committee next week reveals.

Agenda documents reveal the IT hub that is used to store the authority’s information will have to be relocated from Shire Hall when the council hands over the keys to private buyers. The officer’s report says of the data centre that “in terms of information held and services delivered its value is immeasurable.

“It is where Cambridgeshire County Council IT users draw their data from on a daily basis and is therefore fundamental to all CCC service delivery.”

The council’s own report says it would be an ‘attractive option from a strategic, financial and service delivery perspective’ to ‘defer the Shire Hall data move and carry out a phased migration to the cloud’, taking three or four years.

But the report warns that it is ‘unrealistic given the indicative value of the current offers for Shire Hall and the associated timeline for disposal of December 2020’.

Shire Hall (10905639)
Shire Hall (10905639)

So, due to the approaching sale deadline they will look at a ‘hybrid’ option, which sees the council migrate selected critical systems to the Cloud with remaining systems and data hosted from Peterborough.

Costs identified for this option, which councillors will discuss next Tuesday are a capital cost of £5,408,000 and a further £1,411,720 revenue cost, which is a contingency sum. This totals more than £6.8 million.

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesperson said: “This is part of a much wider development of the council’s IT strategy as a whole, which will link the council’s systems more closely with Peterborough City Council and allow much more efficient use of valuable technical resources and greater resilience of both councils’ services.

Shire Hall, Cambridgeshire County Council (10905652)
Shire Hall, Cambridgeshire County Council (10905652)

“The data centre at Shire Hall is more than 20 years old, and has required regular upgrades of supporting infrastructure over the years. As the Council increasingly moves to providing more digital services, there would be a need for significant further investment to support both the council’s day to day work, and to get it ready for delivering the new strategy.

“Only part of the cost in this paper is associated with the centre’s proposed move from Shire Hall. Members were aware that there would be a further cost associated with an updating or move of a data centre. This cost had still to be fully identified based on a closer analysis of the options open to the council.”

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Cambridgeshire County Council moves close to new hub at Alconbury Weald

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