Redcar and Cleveland Council will pay £ 66,000 to private consultants to develop a new website after the local authority says it no longer meets residents’ demands.
The board embarked on a procurement process earlier this year to find a supplier to undertake the work with a two-year contract – which began last month – being handed over to Invotra Consulting, which will partner with another company Annertech. .
Invotra Consulting, based in Woking, describes itself as’ delivering[ing] digital platforms designed with end users and data analytics at heart ”and has already been commissioned by a number of local councils.
Go here for the latest regional affairs and political news from Teesside
Meanwhile, Annertech is a digital design agency based in Dublin, Ireland.
The companies will design and build the new company website and provide ongoing technical support.
Council said it was too early to say when the new website would be “live,” but said during development there would be engagement with borough residents via a “finder panel. “.
In February last year, a ransomware attack by hackers rendered the council’s website unusable for a period, affecting payment systems and also removing other functions such as the planning portal, while networks IT systems that staff relied on were also affected.
The council said no money had been turned over to the hackers, who were presumably operating from overseas, and in April this year it received a £ 3.68million grant from the government to mitigate the financial impact of the incident.
Members have often criticized the inadequacy of the current website.
Councilor Philip Thomson, chairman of the Cleveland Independents Group on the board, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that a website upgrade has been “on the table for some time.”
He said: “There is going to be a new website, which I have to say is overdue.
“We are impatient to see improvements, the search engine in particular is not very useful.
“Over the past few years, we’ve been shown various new website designs, all of which have been flawed in one way or another.”
Cllr Thomson said he had previously asked if members could be involved in the overhaul, so that it reflected their needs as well as the needs of residents and businesses, and was told that would be the case.
He said: “A survey was sent to all members asking if they had any opinions on the website on where they thought improvements could be made.
“I hope all of this member market research has at least been put together.”
He said the £ 66,000 figure was actually lower than he had expected, as previously quoted sums with potential redesigns had been considerably higher.
He said: “In today’s world £ 66,000 is probably not a lot of money.
“Although if I were a resident and offered this, I’m sure I would be very grateful.
“We have to try to make sure that whatever the number is, it is well spent.”
Councilor Glyn Nightingale, a member of the board’s resources cabinet, said the bidding process had been “rigorous” and the new website would be the “centerpiece” of its digital strategy.
The council described the move towards a “digital first” strategy in which residents, visitors and partners can interact and transact online quickly and easily.
A delegated decision, which authorized funding for the work, said the goal was to provide an improved and robust website.
He said that Invotra Consulting submitted the most economically advantageous offer, considering quality and price, and that there was also the option of a six-month extension of the agreed contract.
Cllr Nightingale said, “We aim to engage with residents in whatever format they choose.
“Many still prefer to talk to us by phone or meet with us in person, and we will continue to do so.
“However, more and more people want to engage with us online.
“It has become clear that our current corporate website will no longer meet the needs and requirements of residents who want to interact and transact easily and quickly online in the future.
“This is why we have decided to invest for the long term and to build a website which will be more attractive and will considerably improve accessibility to information.
Cllr Nightingale added, “We have completed a rigorous competitive bidding process and the new website will be the centerpiece of the board’s overall digital strategy, which has been approved by the firm and will ensure that we respond. to the needs and demands of our residents in the future. “
For a summary of North East politics and regional affairs delivered straight to your inbox, go here to subscribe to the free Northern Agenda newsletter