Government accused of IT bullying

By Ian Dipple Friday 31 January 2014 Updated: 31/01 10:02

THE GOVERNMENT has been accused of holding a ‘digital noose’ over the heads of council bosses by forcing them to borrow thousands of pounds to upgrade their security systems.

Coun John Fisher, responsible for corporate management on Redditch Borough Council, said the order from ministers effectively amounted to ‘bullying’ and would cost the authority £129,000 at a time when it was under pressure due to government funding cuts.

The council is currently moving from the system it uses to connect to other local authorities and the Government to the new Public Services Network (PSN) set-up by the Cabinet Office.

Due to increasing concerns over security breaches the Government is warning the council they must comply with strict new criteria or they will be disconnected - despite the fact they have never had any security problems using the previous government system.

Such a move would severely hit the council’s ability to function as it would be unable to manage benefits, gain access to secure government websites or share vital information with organisations such as the police and NHS.

Part of the the new criteria means staff will no longer be able to use their own IT equipment to access the PSN from home, which means the council will have to provide a PC or similar device for workers, as well as a device which will carry out stricter checks on the identity of the person trying to gain access.

Several applications and servers will also need to be upgraded.

To meet the demands the council will have to borrow £90,000 to buy the equipment this year and use £39,000 from its savings to fund other costs.

But it is still possible the final total could be higher as the Government has yet to give assurance no further action will be needed to meet the criteria.

Coun Fisher said most cyber breaches were caused by human error and he was angry they were being forced to buy equipment they did not need, spend money they could not afford, for a problem that did not exist.

“And we’re being forced to do all that while taking money out of the pockets of the poorest people in Redditch,” he said.

“The Government are holding a digital noose over our heads - it’s appalling.”

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