London Borough of Hillingdon Becomes a Role Model for Efficient E-Government

Working with Cisco, the London Borough of Hillingdon has achieved solid savings and wide recognition as a result of its Web-enablement initiatives

The London Borough of Hillingdon, on the western fringe of the city, is a unique area, mixing big business with a diverse residential population. It includes Heathrow, the world's busiest international airport. The borough has an annual budget of US$269 million, and it directly employs some 3000 people. There are 7423 businesses operating in Hillingdon, including British Airways, Nestle, Penguin Books, and Rank Xerox.

Pressure from such an increasingly demanding, and Internet-aware, public is changing users' expectations to universal, high-quality, around-the-clock access to public services.

The Local Government Act of 2000, together with the U.K. government's dictate that all council services should be available online by 2005, has injected a new-found dynamism into local government in Britain. Those changes are accompanied by greater focus on accountability and value for money. Under a new chief executive, Dorian Leatham, Hillingdon needed to grasp the opportunities presented.

The Local Government Act of 2000 represents the most fundamental change in local government in more than 100 years. It was designed to introduce a more efficient structure for council decision-making. However, simply changing the way councillors make decisions would not, in itself, make a significant difference in the way local governments function. To achieve this, the U.K. government had set a target for all local government services to be available to citizens by electronic means by 2005.

The London Borough of Hillingdon aimed to make itself a role model for both the adoption of Web technology for its service portfolio and the introduction of new, more efficient working practices. Working in partnership with Cisco Systems®, an e-services board was established in Hillingdon in order to achieve several key aims, including a new Website, an IP telephony-enabled citizen contact centre, online procurement, and new work models for the borough's Housing Services department.

These goals were driven by the understanding that Web technology could play a critical role in widening access to local government information, as well as serving as a channel for both access to and delivery of local government services. Following discussions with Cisco®, Hillingdon officials came to appreciate how embracing Web technology would be essential to modernising the government and making best use of its resources.

To effect the changes, Hillingdon officials placed information and communications technology (ICT) strategy high on the borough's agenda and recruited a senior figure to drive the borough's e-transformation forward.

One of the first challenges the borough met was the creation and launch of the Hillingdon Website. Almost immediately, the site began attracting 16,000 unique users per month, which translates into approximately 60,000 individual sessions. Many of those sessions are replacing telephone or face-to-face interactions and online access is continuing to grow at around 20 percent per annum. Today, services, such as planning applications, are available online, and further services are being added.

An influential report, entitled "Building the Modernisation Business Case," has been produced in collaboration with Cisco, and is earning the borough high praise. Cisco provided considerable support in terms of the overall methodology, and return-on-investment (ROI) models for use in the public sector have been developed. The principles and methods outlined in the report have been put into practice and work has started on Web-enabling the borough's Housing Services department. For a one-time US$1.7 million investment, Hillingdon will immediately save nearly US$3.7 million and then realise an annual savings of more than US$333,500. After the fourth year, administrators expect the recurring annual net savings to be as high as US$1.25 million.

Also, in creating a self-service environment for its employees, Hillingdon has centralised its human relations functions—saving more than US$230,000 in the process—and created a boroughwide online directory.

September 2004 will also see the replacement of the council's telephone systems with a Cisco IP Telephony infrastructure, a project already well under way. That move will save the borough more than US$160,000 per year.

Next Steps
In addition, Hillingdon is one of five leading local authorities involved in the national pilot for using interactive TV in local government. The council's ability to build and substantiate business cases as evidenced by the "Building the Modernisation Business Case" report was a key criterion in Hillingdon's selection for the trial. Hillingdon's part in the experiment is to use the "free-to-air" channel, which will give some 300 properties access to the Housing Services department via a council-provided set-top box on their TV sets.

In 2003, Hillingdon will also put its procurement online with Oracle Financials. The decision to adopt e-procurement came after borough officials participated in an e-procurement workshop sponsored by Cisco that demonstrated how the Web can be used for purchasing and outlined the benefits to organisations of moving to an e-procurement system. E-procurement will make the purchase of supplies across the organisation far more cost-efficient, and will help Hillingdon realise huge economies of scale. The borough currently processes great numbers of paper invoices, and savings of more than US$830,000 are expected in the first year alone.

Because the boundaries of the Hillingdon borough are coterminous with, for example, local health service and police boundaries, the possibility for jointly sharing premises, systems, and (subject to data protection) information is one area that borough officials will be exploring in the future. The possibilities of joint use of Web technologies are being explored with the health authority, the police authority, and other partners.

What Cisco Offers
Cisco has set the standard for using Internet technology to transform business processes. Its Internet Business Solutions Group (ISBG) has vast experience helping companies make the transition to e-business. From helping companies determine their "Net Readiness" through an assessment tool to installing networks for the integration of data, voice, and video, Cisco experience and expertise can help a business interested in any level of e-business implementation. Cisco offers:

  • Internet-powered business methodologies
  • Internet-powered application frameworks
  • Networking reference architectures
  • Alliances with best-of-breed companies with proven experience in building e-business applications and solutions

Dorian Leatham, chief executive of the London Borough of Hillingdon, says: "Great Websites and great use of information technology have become absolute prerequisites if you want to climb towards 'excellent' in the government's league table of local boroughs. Hillingdon has both. Today, you just can't get to the top rung of the ladder without technology."

Further Reading

  • Hillingdon borough's annual budget is US$269 million and it directly employs 3000 people
  • The Housing Services department has stewardship of 11,469 council properties and a staff of 520 people
  • Hillingdon is home to 250,000 people from diverse backgrounds
  • Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities currently total 19 percent of the population but that figure is expected to rise to 25 percent by 2011
  • There are 7423 businesses in Hillingdon, including British Airways, Nestle, Penguin Books, and Rank Xerox
  • The borough has 91 schools and 17 libraries, and is home to Brunel University

July 22, 2003