An independent view: our story so far

To celebrate Strata’s fourth birthday, we asked national newspaper journalist, communications consultant and academic Tim Gibson to get under the skin of our organisation and report on our achievements.

In brief

Strata is a unique organisation. It’s focussed on delivering transformational IT Services into three local authorities within Devon, whilst aiming to reduce cost, reduce risk and deliver the capacity and capability to support change.

It’s now four years since the Strata organisation came into existence and it’s fair to say that it’s ambitious vision has been realised and the foundations laid to enable the three authorities to embrace the digital transformation journey.

This independent view looks back at the initial vision for Strata to understand why it’s different from the usual public sector outsourced IT initiative. It also explores why employing and retaining highly skilled and motivated staff is of critical importance and how technology can be used to make a real difference in the lives of local residents.

Big numbers

In the four years since Strata’s inception:

  • 23,500+Completed service requests for things like hardware
  • 11,300+Things we fixed
  • 2,900+Finished business change requests to a system
  • HalvedThe time taken to fix something that’s broken from an average of 1.7 days to 0.84 days
  • £565,000Savings delivered back to the authorities in 2017/18 and significant reductions in IT outages across all three councils
  • £895,000Returned to the authorities by Strata since 2015


When I joined Strata in April 2017, I realised that I was taking the helm of a rather unique organisation. We operate with the commercial acumen of a business, but without the profit incentive. Our task is to drive efficiencies in the technology provision for three councils, to save cost, and to effect change.

We are fully embedded in the councils, and enjoy close working relationships with our colleagues in all three. I hope and believe that we make it easier to deliver exemplary services to citizens throughout the South West, as well as facilitating flexible working among the councils’ staff and improving their interactions with technology.

But every so often it pays to take stock. To stand back from the daily bustle and take a long, hard look at our organisation. To see where we’ve come from, take a moment to consider where we are now, and cast a vision for where we may go in the future.

That’s part of the leadership I’ve brought to Strata. But there is always a benefit to bringing in an extra pair of eyes, someone external to the organisation who can check our progress, test the veracity of our claims, and get under the skin of our daily activity.

Here, journalist, academic and communications consultant Dr Tim Gibson does exactly that. The Strata board invited Tim to tell the story of Strata, to convey what we’re trying to achieve and reflect on the extent to which we’re succeeding.

That’s what follows in these pages. It is our story, shared across three diverse councils that are collaborating for the sake of reducing cost, enhancing efficiency and making life better for citizens. As Tim remarks, it is a story we can all be proud of, because it is proving a success, not least in the form of the £565,000 of savings delivered in the last year and enhanced resilience in the technology used by all three councils.

So while there may be bumps in the road, operational failures that frustrate or annoy, on the whole Strata is deploying cutting-edge technology to improve service delivery in East Devon, Teignbridge and Exeter.

That’s quite an achievement. I hope you feel as proud of it as I do.

Contributors include

  • Karime Hassan
    Chief Executive
    Exeter City Council
  • Phil Shears
    Managing Director
    Teignbridge District Council
  • Mark Williams
    Chief Executive
    East Devon District Council
  • Karen Jenkins
    Strategic Lead – Organisational Development and Transformation
    East Devon District Council
  • Robin Barlow
    Head of Security and Compliance
  • Martin Millmow
    Head of Document Centres
  • David Sercombe
    Head of Business Systems
  • Adrian Smith
    Head of Support and Infrastructure

Thanks to our partners and colleagues who’ve contributed some of their time to talk to Tim and share their perspective on Strata.

1In the beginning

Strata has always been recognised as a bold initiative, but where did it come from?

Information Technology. These two words have a rare ability to bring government officials out in a cold sweat, whether they tread the corridors of Whitehall or work in local authorities. The recent history of public sector innovation is littered with high-profile IT failures, such as the NHS’ doomed National Programme for IT (NPfIT), the glitches in the rollout of the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) for UK farmers, and the technical difficulties encountered in processing Universal Credit.

So it’s refreshing to spend time at Strata – an innovative collaboration between three local authorities to deliver a unified IT service provider that saves cost, enhances efficiency and improves the working lives of hundreds of staff.

A visionary joint venture between East Devon District Council, Teignbridge District Council and Exeter City Council

About Strata

Strata operates on commercial principles, at the same time as building on the virtues of the public sector.  It is focused on service delivery rather than profit, and takes a lead from the councils to use IT as an enabler for change.

“The crucial thing about Strata is that we don’t put a mark-up on our services or products”, explains Laurence Whitlock, the company’s overall manager and IT director. “We’re owned by East Devon District Council, Teignbridge District Council and Exeter City Council. Our balance sheet should always be at a break-even point by the end of the year. Our mission is to save the councils money and create efficiencies. So we share the ethos of the local authorities, rather than being driven by a desire to keep shareholders happy.”

That makes Strata sound like something of a revolution in public sector IT. Which begs an important question: where did the pattern-disrupting idea come from, and what gave these councils the courage to pursue it?

Origin of the species: Strata’s conception

Cast your mind back to the days of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, 2010–15. An era of austerity that was characterised by two clear trends in the public sector: an overwhelming concern to cut spending, and a desire for ever-greater efficiency. In other words, it was a time in which national and local government was challenged to do more for less.

Technology was seen as the great enabler of these objectives. It is no accident that national initiatives such as the G-Cloud and the Public Services Network (PSN) emerged in this period. They involved complex partnerships between the public and private sectors: a sharing of expertise and a commitment to involving commercial organisations at an early stage in IT procurement, so they had a hand in specifying projects as well as delivering against them.

Providing IT support and solutions for all three councils to deliver cost savings, enhance resilience, and improving the capacity and capability for change

Such public-private partnerships became de rigueur in central government IT, and many local authorities followed the trend. Bradford, Barnet and Northamptonshire soon signed deals with commercial contractors, giving them control over their technology in the hope of achieving a streamlined, more cost-effective, service.

East Devon District Council, Teignbridge District Council and Exeter City Council wanted to achieve similar outcomes. But they didn’t want to outsource their IT provision to a commercial operator. Instead, they conceived a bolder, more ambitious model: they would close their in-house IT departments and invest together in an outsourced IT provider, Strata.

The Strata model

Strata would be wholly owned by the three authorities, and have a clear mandate to deliver significant cost savings and enhance resilience. The relationship would be run on a client-contractor basis, with each council appointing a client lead to scrutinise Strata’s activity. Strata’s board would have representation from all three councils, who would ensure commonality of purpose and effective collaboration.

Written in these terms, the vision seems straightforward. But in the context of three councils with legacy IT systems that were unwieldy, out of date and prone to failure, a large cost base for technology spending, and significant head count in their separate IT departments, its boundary-pushing credentials are plain. Strata was a big deal. It had a lot riding on it.

Bringing the vision to life

The first task was to close each council’s in-house IT department and TUPE staff across to Strata. Inevitably, there were redundancies – this was a cost-saving initiative and global head count was reduced, even though the level of expertise available to each council actually grew.

The transition was painful for some, both the new Strata workforce and their former colleagues in the councils. “There was a moment at which staff went from being council employees to Strata employees,” explains Karen Jenkins, Strategic Lead of Organisational Development and Transformation at East Devon District Council. “Suddenly, their relationships with former workmates adjusted, as did their professional identity. For some, that took a bit of getting used to.”

The impact of such a change should not be underestimated. Strata is an exemplar of collaborative working between disparate authorities, but it is also an outstanding model of effective change management. Now, four years on, Strata employees have a clear identity: they wear branded polo shirts, work in offices across all three authorities that are clearly marked with Strata signage, and have a clear line of report through Strata’s hierarchy.

“Strata still feels quite new in local authority terms,” Jenkins continues. “That its identity is so well-established across the three councils is a significant achievement. It shows the adaptability of our workforce – something for which local government is not always given the credit it deserves.”

A staff of 75, including highly trained technicians, experienced IT professionals and proven project managers

Getting started

With a new workforce, Strata needed to deliver common IT systems across three councils that were until that point very different. “While each authority had a different set of requirements from Strata, there was a clear drive towards establishing a single robust platform that could be managed remotely,” says Laurence Whitlock. “That makes sense from a technology point of view, as well as financially.”

The migration from council-specific IT systems to a generic set-up was by no means painless. But the transition was made easier by the fact that each council retains its distinctiveness from an operator’s perspective. “Log in at Teignbridge and you’ll feel as if you’re using a Teignbridge system,” explains Strata’s head of support and infrastructure, Adrian Smith. “Likewise in East Devon and Exeter. The infrastructure is the same, but of course the systems are bespoked to some extent for each client, and the visual feel is specific to each of the three councils.”

With the people, processes and technology in place, Strata was ready to fly. But before it could deliver on its ambitions, it needed to earn the trust of users. Four years after being established, that mission is some way to being accomplished thanks to Strata’s success in achieving its objectives.

2Where Strata is now

Strata is celebrating its fourth birthday. What better time to take stock of its achievements?

“For us, Strata has been a real success story. We know what we want from the company, and it’s fulfilled our expectations.” That is the view of Mark Williams, chief executive of East Devon District Council. It’s a judgment echoed by his counterparts in Exeter City Council (Karime Hassan) and Teignbridge District Council (Phil Shears). They’re convinced that Strata has delivered on its objectives and vindicated the boldness that led to its formation.

My meeting with Williams bears this out. Arriving at East Devon District Council’s Exmouth office, I am ushered into an open-plan, flexible workspace, where the chief executive sits at a desktop alongside various members of his team, having logged in briefly to catch up on emails prior to our conversation.

This is the reality of Strata’s accomplishment. Whatever position a person holds in their council, Strata’s IT systems enable flexible working on a Global Desktop, regardless of location.

“Strata has enabled agile working, which is completely new to our council,” reports Phil Shears, Managing Director of Teignbridge District Council. “More than that, the same technology has improved service delivery for citizens: they can now interact with the authority 24/7, 365 days a year. In the age of Amazon, that’s exactly what they want and expect from their local council.”

Global benefits

Such agility is largely thanks to the power of the technology deployed by Strata. Laurence Whitlock reports, for example, that scores of citizens accessed their local authority’s website on Christmas Day and Boxing Day to check refuse collections. The system ensures that customers can interact with the council, and transact business, at a time to suit them.

For the workforce, the Global Desktop brings clear benefits. They can work remotely, meaning increased productivity and much greater flexibility in working patterns. That is one of the reasons high-quality people are attracted to jobs in the public sector, and Strata’s expertise has enabled the three councils to enhance their employment offer. With cutting-edge technology to hand, and the capacity to offer Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) working, ambitious staff have a strong incentive to apply for jobs in East Devon, Teignbridge and Exeter.

More than that, Exeter’s chief executive Karime Hassan believes Strata has helped consolidate the city’s reputation as a tech centre: “There are 15,000 people in tech jobs in Exeter,” he reports, “and the number is rising. By having an innovative tech company like Strata at the heart of the council, we’re sending an important message to other investors, and their employees. Strata is helping to put Exeter on the map as a serious digital player.”

Cost and resilience

While impressive, none of these gains were the principal drivers for establishing Strata back in 2014. That was all to do with wiping cost from the councils’ IT budgets and enhancing resilience in their use of technology. Strata has achieved these goals in emphatic style.

It stands to reason that merging three in-house IT departments into one provider will reduce overheads. But the savings of £565,000 that Strata delivered last year are about more than just the wage bill. They’ve been delivered at the same time as efficiency enhancements and greatly reduced outages or technical glitches. What is more, Strata has helped drive change in the way the councils conduct their business, thereby improving the lives of employees and citizens alike.

All three council bosses concur that Strata has delivered a marked improvement in resilience for their operations. For Karime Hassan and Phil Shears in particular, this was a major driver of the Strata initiative. As Shears remarks, “We didn’t have that with our old system. We knew that IT would enable us to deliver quality services, but didn’t have faith in our IT set-up. Thanks to Strata, now we do.”

Hassan makes a similar point, saying that Exeter City Council’s IT systems are now “far more robust [than when it had an in-house IT team]”. And Karen Jenkins goes further, saying that has as much to do with Strata’s workforce as with the technology it has introduced.

“We actually have access to a bigger IT department than we did with an in-house team,” Jenkins says. “It’s a more diverse group of people, too, with a wider range of skills and no small amount of expertise. So not only has resilience improved, which was a major driver for us. We also have far greater capacity now – and for significantly less cost.”

Digital first

For Phil Shears, the cost savings are only a part of the Strata story, and become less relevant as the company continues to evolve. “Teignbridge District Council has a digital first strategy, and needs Strata’s expertise to bring it to life,” he reports. “So while cost savings are good, and exactly what we hoped to achieve with this joint venture, the focus now is on how to deliver more for the budget, using Strata as the enabler.”

Strata is an agent for change – helping councils develop new ways of interacting with customers

Mark Williams echoes these sentiments, revealing the continuity of purpose between authorities that has been important in shaping Strata’s success. “The next thing for East Devon District Council is that Strata becomes an agent for change,” he says. “I think the company can help us as a council to get better – to deliver services more efficiently and cost-effectively, and to find new ways of serving our customers that make their lives better.”

Changing places

In the case of East Devon District Council, a significant challenge lies ahead, and Strata has a particularly prominent role in meeting it.

In early 2019, the council is moving from its existing headquarters at Knowle in Sidmouth to a state-of-the-art purpose-built facility in Honiton. Strata’s team will be responsible for ensuring a seamless move of workstations and IT Infrastructure. Staff need to move effortlessly, and Strata’s people will make it happen.

In the longer term, Laurence Whitlock sees East Devon’s move as an opportunity to design and implement further tech advances that benefit all three councils. “The council’s move to a brand-new office is exciting for Strata,” he says. “It provides an opportunity for us to introduce even greater agile working, and enable change, because we’ll have an infrastructure in place to support the very latest technology. I think all three councils will benefit from that, which shows the deep value of this collaboration between them.”

Karen Jenkins agrees. “East Devon District Council’s move to Honiton was a major driver for our decision to invest in Strata in the first place,” she reports. “That is not only about the technical support Strata provides for the transition. There’s also something quite powerful about having an innovative IT operation like Strata as we continue to modernise. Strata’s contribution to our success is about what it symbolises, as well as what it actually delivers.”

Mind you, there is little doubt about the quality of Strata’s delivery. The service desk routinely achieves customer satisfaction ratings of 97 per cent or more, and Strata’s introduction of out-of-hours support has proved very popular with users. “Most local authorities don’t have out-of-hours cover for IT,” says Strata’s head of business systems David Sercombe. “But if you’re encouraging flexible working, it is important to have the systems in place that enable it.”

Enterprise-level experience

This speaks of the enterprise-level experience that shapes Strata’s approach. A number of the company’s employees have experience as IT consultants, and understand the rigorous demands of big business. What the company appears to be doing successfully is applying this experience to the distinctive context of local government.

Take the recent update of printing facilities as a case in point. By introducing new equipment, Strata has greatly improved flexibility, reliability and quality when printing. Users activate a “follow-me” set-up by swiping their ID card, meaning they can use any printer in their council’s offices. “It sounds like a simple thing,” says Martin Millmow, Strata’s head of document centres, whose team specified and implemented the update, “but it’s making a huge difference to the way people work. They spend a lot less time wrestling with printers nowadays.”

On the basis of its achievements to date, it is easy to see why Strata is celebrated as a success by the three councils. But there is clear potential in the company to deliver even more, by helping the authorities to work even smarter. It is time for Strata play a role in shaping the future.

3Building tomorrow today

Strata has the potential to be an “agent for change”. Here’s how.

When Exeter City Council’s chief executive Karime Hassan says that Strata is helping the authority to “think big” about the future, he highlights the company’s evolution over the last four years. Originally focused on saving cost, enhancing resilience and driving efficiency, Strata now has a remit to facilitate change, disrupt the councils’ ways of doing business, and cast a vision for the future.

IT director Laurence Whitlock is aware of this, and sees it as an exciting opportunity. “You could say we’re entering the phase of Strata 2.0,” he remarks. “We’ve shown that the initiative delivers tangible cost savings and improved resilience. Now, we’re broadening our impact, to enhance the way our councils work, and improve their interactions with citizens.”

Driving innovation through enterprise-grade IT support and solutions, delivered with an understanding of local government’s needs

Working smarter

Here’s a good example of how Strata’s expertise is helping the three councils work smarter: the company is introducing a focussed project management methodology to deliver technology upgrades as efficiently as possible. When a Business Change Request (BCR) is logged, it initiates a process in which clear goals are established, and progress is monitored by reference to them until delivery is complete.

“By following a logical, sequential and task-focused approach, we can get projects over the line more speedily and more cost-effectively”, Adrian Smith reports. “It’s an example of Strata as a supplier sharing expertise with the councils as customers. We’re helping the councils operate more efficiently, at the same time as responding to their business needs.”

Despite being a collaborative endeavour, there is an identifiable customer-supplier relationship between Strata and the councils when it comes to governance, which the project management initiative bears out. “The councils set the agenda, and Strata helps us pursue it”, says Teignbridge’s Phil Shears. “We have our own policy objectives [which inevitably differ between the authorities, especially given their demographic differences]. But we understand the significant role of technology in successfully implementing them. That is the common thread that Strata brings across Teignbridge, East Devon and Exeter.”

High flyers

A good example of this is the day Laurence Whitlock and his team took a drone to the cliffs around Jacob’s Ladder in Sidmouth. They conducted a visual survey of this popular East Devon beauty spot – a task that has historically involved restricting public access while a team of roped climbers inspect the condition of the rock and surroundings. It seems like a small initiative, but the cost and efficiency savings could be significant to the authority.

While difficult to measure, the potential gains for citizens of deploying drone technology in this way are impressive: less disruption, the opportunity for more regular inspections, thereby minimising the risk of accidents, and improved access to the area. As well as enhancing the experience of visitors to Jacob’s Ladder and streamlining the council’s inspection process, this deployment offers value for money to council-tax payers.

So there is low-hanging fruit, which Whitlock and his team believe can enhance the way all three councils operate and make them even better at delivering high-quality public services. Another example is the use of a mobile phone app for Exeter residents to report graffiti. They simply take a photograph of the graffiti on their smart phone, send it to the council, and a cleaning team is dispatched to the relevant area. It’s a seamless service for users, making it easier for the council to keep the city environment pleasant for the population. It helps citizens feel empowered, because they have a hand in caring for their neighbourhood, and feel as if the council trusts them to do so.

Intangible benefits

The latter benefit is one of those intangible gains that Strata’s technology enables, but which is hard to measure. This is the new reality in which the company is operating. “People want a council that speaks to them, is available to them and serves their needs,” says Mark Williams. “IT is an enabler of this – especially when in the hands of an innovative operator like Strata.”

Therein lies the rub when it comes to the Strata initiative. Because it has attracted top talent from the technology sector, has clear progression opportunities for gifted staff, runs a successful apprenticeship programme to nurture home-grown talent, and has an understanding of the pressures that local government operates under, it’s ideally placed to effect change. The authorities are already capable of thinking big. Strata helps them to think even bigger.

Brave thinking

Strata was founded on a brave idea: for local authorities to outsource IT but own the outsourcer. That was a novel operating model, and it’s proved a success. Now is the time for even braver thinking, thinks Whitlock, which may have implications for Strata’s long-term funding.

“We can always deliver savings,” he reports. “But it’s my instinct that we can actually become a source of revenue, because we have a successful model that could be delivered elsewhere.”

For example, Whitlock and his senior team are of the view that Strata’s solutions, often bespoked to local government needs, have a value for other authorities. “I think we could develop proprietary solutions, processes and services that are marketed to other councils,” he says. “Developing them would enhance the technology we deliver to Teignbridge, East Devon and Exeter. But it would also provide a revenue stream, freeing up even more resources for the authorities to spend on other things.”

Enhancing service delivery by identifying areas of best practice

Big data

If that idea seems ambitious, a shorter-term goal for Strata is to use its data stores to help guide decision-making by the councils. “We have a huge [secure] data repository,” says Strata’s head of security and compliance, Robin Barlow. “We’re already using it to help the council allocate resources, focus service delivery, or maximise revenue. But with the right analysts, who we’re already in the process of recruiting, that data could be a hugely powerful tool when the authorities are making decisions about serving customers.”

Developing solutions that can be marketed to other authorities, thereby establishing a fresh revenue stream

For example, Katherine Reed, one of Strata’s geographical information systems officers, reports how the company’s use of address data has increased council tax receipts. “Using satellite imaging, I identified a number of what looked like dwellings in a wood with no planning permission,” Katherine says. “These four properties have now been added to East Devon District Council’s records, bringing in a total of £23,928 in additional revenue to date.

“Similarly, we located 50 business units without planning permission that were not paying business rates. These have now been rated, and the occupants have started to pay their fair share.”

Examples such as these show Strata refining the councils’ practices and using time effectively to increase revenue and maximise cost effectiveness. That’s undoubtedly what the future looks like for this most innovative of operations: to continue working in partnership with the authorities in pursuing the art of the possible, thereby enhancing the lives of citizens and council employees alike. Strata’s next phase won’t just be about saving cost and enhancing resilience, therefore. Now is its moment to help the councils think creatively about the nature of service delivery in the 21st century.

4A day with Strata

What does Strata’s average day look like? Tim Gibson found out.

My day with Strata starts early, with the sun glancing off the Blackdown Hills to the north of Honiton. I’m due to meet Strata’s IT director Laurence Whitlock at Knowle in Sidmouth, headquarters of East Devon District Council until it moves to Honiton in early 2019.

Even as I walk from room to room at Knowle, I see the commitment of Strata’s people to helping improve service delivery, making the authorities as effective and efficient as possible. With a number of staff joining Strata from previous roles within the three councils, that mindset seems inevitable: these are people with a dedication to public service. They want to make the world better.

Technology is a key tool in that process. Strata has introduced significant changes in the way the councils work, including flexible working, digital service delivery, and internet transactions for customers. They’re all things the councils wanted to achieve. Strata gets them over the line.

Industry expertise

While Strata may have a remit to drive transformation, its principal purpose from an operational perspective is to ensure continuity of service for users. I am surprised at first to discover that it does not use cloud-based data storage. But then I discover the reason: by virtue of the size of its data centre, servicing as it does three authorities, Strata effectively operates its own cloud, with a reassuring amount of back-up.

Of course, security is of high importance to Strata, because the three councils handle a huge amount of citizen data. The implications of a breach are serious. That is why the company employs its own security specialists – people who spend their days identifying and remedying potential weaknesses in Strata’s defences, looking out for and responding to threats, and developing their knowledge of cyber security to ensure the councils are always as protected as possible.

One such person is Mark Harrison, a former submariner and now Strata’s security lead, who I meet in Teignbridge. He believes Strata is bringing an elevated level of expertise to the councils, because it attracts people who may not otherwise be drawn to work in local government.

“I’m struck by the quality of candidate Strata can attract.” Harrison observes. “It feels like an exciting tech company to be a part of, but it is fully embedded in the authorities it serves. That brings brilliant work-life benefits, as well as a profound sense of purpose. So I think the Strata arrangement works for all parties.”

Global Desktop enables flexible working – any time, anywhere

That is an encouraging sentiment, and it appears to be borne out not just in the quality of person I meet working for Strata, but in the technology being utilised by the councils. In Teignbridge, for example, the council chamber is equipped with impressive audio-visual equipment that greatly enhances meetings – all of which Strata has specified and maintains. Likewise along the coast in East Devon District Council’s Exmouth offices: the terminals in its light and airy workspace can be accessed by anyone with a Global Desktop login, making hot-desking a breeze. If you had to describe the hallmarks of a twenty-first century local authority, this integrated and effective use of technology would feature prominently.

Support when it’s needed

And so I progress to Strata’s offices at Exeter City Council. This is the site of Strata’s service desk, offering first- and second-line support. The helpdesk has a very high customer satisfaction rating when compared to industry expectations and is a hub of activity. Staff respond to user issues with alacrity and efficiency, and also work proactively to head off difficulties before they’ve even arisen.

“That’s how IT services providers work in the private sector,” explains David Sercombe, Strata’s head of business systems. “It’s what we’ve brought to the councils’ IT set-up, along with out-of-hours cover and a desire to deploy the very best solutions for the circumstances at hand.”

This indicates one of the most compelling features of Strata: although it operates like a business, with efficiency, professionalism and innovation being very much at its heart, it is not driven by a desire to maximise profit. In consequence, it chooses the technology that genuinely enhances service provision for the councils. There’s never any temptation to sell a product or solution that the client doesn’t need. Strata and the authorities are in it together.

A shared purpose

There is something refreshing about this model, especially when compared to the commercial partnerships that have been pursued by other local authorities, and by central government departments. There’s a profound sense that Strata shares the three councils’ purposes, wants to help them realise their ambitions, and buys into their vision.

It is striking that Strata has delivered huge cost savings for East Devon District Council, Teignbridge District Council and Exeter City Council, of £565,000 in the last year alone. It has also enhanced service delivery, driven innovation and helped the authorities serve citizens more effectively. Just as important, but less tangible, it has modelled collaboration and healthy communication between the councils – giving them space to be the same but different, and serving them all with efficiency and verve.

As I clamber into my car after a full day observing Strata’s busy operation, it is easy to be impressed by what I’ve seen. Strata may be a separate organisation from the three councils.

It may have its own identity, its own employees, and a clearly defined client-supplier relationship with the authorities when it comes to governance. But if you work for East Devon District Council, Teignbridge District Council or Exeter City Council, you can be proud of Strata. It is the embodiment of a bold vision, and it’s working. It is a shared achievement. And it is making life better, for everyone.

Meet some of our people

“I worked for Teignbridge District Council for 27 years, and joined Strata at the start. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together. The Global Desktop is a fantastic achievement that gives great flexibility to users and is a consistent platform.

“I’ve appreciated the chance to share in the knowledge pool of three authorities. Strata provides the platforms, knowledge and services, which means our customers can focus on their key functions and managers can prioritise as demands change. If we were still three separate council IT departments, I am not sure how effective or robust IT would be.”

“My primary task is to manage our supply chain to ensure efficiency, cost-effectiveness and strong working relationships. I have to understand the needs of all three councils, and how Strata meets them in various ways. I believe we have a unique business model, working to meet the needs of three different councils and encouraging collaboration wherever possible.

“To have moved from three separate in-house IT departments to a standalone business that effectively supports the councils in just four years is a major achievement. Everyone involved in Strata and the authorities should be very proud of what’s been done so far, and excited about the future.”


About the author of
Strata @4

Dr Tim Gibson writes regularly for a variety of national publications, including The Telegraph and Civil Service World.

Originally a motoring journalist, he also specialises in the public sector, with a particular interest in the interface between commerce and government. He is a senior lecturer at the University of the West of England, Bristol, and runs a copywriting and communications agency, as well as writing books. He has worked with a variety of big-name brands, including American Express, Volvo Car UK, Connect Group plc, FCO Services, NHS Dorset, and HP. He helps commercial suppliers understand the demands of public service delivery and engage with national and local government audiences.

Find out more about Tim at The Writing Hut and at The Telegraph.

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