“As I understand it East Kent Housing (EKH) is being run from an unsupported two versions owned, obsolete version of Northgate software which is hosted on servers which is running operating systems which are passed their end of life.“
Cllr Tim Prater of Folkestone & Hythe District Council (FHDC) made the claim at the Cabinet Committee on the 27th May. No member of the cabinet challenged his claim. He went onto say:
“Our Housing service is effectively being run on servers which are not compliant with the most basic data safety standards. The software is not up to date, and the operating systems are not up to date and can’t even be patched.”
He goes on to add
“So we need to get from there to having a basic legal, at least basically legal housing management system.”
for each of the four councils who hold a 25% stake in EKH – Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe and Thanet Councils.
See from 2m: 14s onwards.
The data held on the servers would be personal information such as: – name, address, email, bank account details, rental agreements, for example. They would also store sensitive personal information such as: – health data, prison records, sexual orientation, for example.
The four councils who took over EKH in mid Decemeber 2019 inherited this system from under the former leadership of Chief Exec Deborah Upton, who is rumoured to have left EKH with a £160,000 payout.
All this data in the out of date, end of life, non compliant systems will cost each council £135,000 each (after negotiating a cost reduction with Northgate from, £187,000), to extract the non compliant data from the Single System. The estimated ongoing costs for Northgate to manage the data, stands at £17,000 for each council. Meaning all four councils collectively are being asked to fork out £622,000, for a system put together by Northgate.
Like Cllr Prater, we fail to understand why Northgate needs to charge each council £135,000 each as they can pull the data down once and segregate out each councils data and pass it onto the relevant council. The council is not being offered “best value” says Cllr Prater. He sets out there are other alternatives and cheaper options potentially. He asked Cabinet defer their decision to seek further quotes, to see if the job can be done cheaper.
Cllr Prater’s concerns were listened to by Cabinet about the costs involved, and Cabinet requested that an external analyst be consulted, and seek to negotiate further savings. The vote was unanimous.
However, it doesn’t stop there.
Why did it take the Cabinet Member for Revenues & Benefits service, Anti fraud and corruption, Cllr Prater to raise issues with data protection?
Surely Cllr Ray Field (Ind) (pictured), the Cabinet member responsible for Information technology, information access and security, RIPA and Customer service ought to have raised data and security concerns at the Cabinet meeting. Why did he stay mute on the subject of the data held by EKH, on the 3,396 FHDC tenants?
This is a man who at election time when he represented the local Labour Party (May 2019). He promised you the people of Folkestone Harbour Ward and beyond:
When Cllr Field voice was needed by Council tenants in his ward and beyond, he remained silent – quelle suprise.
We would further ask why the three statutory officers of the council:
The Head of Paid Service – Dr Susan Priest (left).
The Monitoring Officer – Amandeep Khroud (centre).
The s151 Officer Charlotte Spendley (right).
These officers are individually and collectively responsible for promoting good governance, within the authority, and ensuring proper arrangements are in place so that the authority carries out its business in compliance with law and best practice.
All too often EKH have been in the public eye for all the wrong reasons. As it is under the four council management, it’s the respective Chief Exec’s who sit on and as the Board who should take full responsibility for this clanger. They ought to publicly apologise to tenants for putting their data at significant risk. A risk which cannot be sensibly ignored having due regard to the gravity and feared harm of the exposure of the data; which sits on out of date operating systems and software which is not up to date, can’t be patched and past its end of life time by a substantial margin.
The Council have begun the programme of bringing both EKH staff and services back into their respective councils. This is happening at a time of where each of them has lost significant income; which will place budgetary pressures upon them of their own making.
Microsoft had been warning of the end of life of the software since Jan 2019. Yet neither EKH, under the management of Deborah Upton, or the four Chief Execs of the four Councils, took note of the Microsofts alerts which ended in Jan 2020.
All 17,000 plus tenants, across all four councils have a right to know how and why their data ended up being stored on “unsupported two versions owned, obsolete version of Northgate software which is hosted on servers which is running operating systems which are passed their end of life.” and “are not compliant with the most basic data safety standards.”
If you are an EKH Tenant or leaseholder and have any questions about this significant matter you can contact EKH’s Data protection officer and the council data protection officers at:
East Kent Housing:
Canterbury City Council
Matthew Archer – firstname.lastname@example.org – 01227 862 175
Dover District Council
Harvey Rudd – email@example.com – 01304 872318
Folkestone & Hythe District Council
Thanet District Council