Are UK local authorities still striving to achieve a ‘Cloud First’ approach?

Despite the Government’s ‘Cloud First’ directive of 2013 and the potential for the cloud to completely transform public services, the majority of UK local authorities still appear to be in the early stages of their cloud journey.

Citrix recently contacted 80 local authorities across the UK, via a Freedom of Information (FoI) request. Half responded to the request, and of these, just 8% said that they access and manage all data in public clouds. Instead, most councils appear to be at varying stages of cloud migration: 80% still access and manage their citizen data on-premises in some capacity, whilst 30% utilise a private cloud, and quarter rely on a hybrid cloud model.

Further, around 70% of councils responded that they’re “not confident” that they hold a ‘single view’ of their citizen data, which in an ideal scenario, would include one database entry per citizen with access to all their service history such as parking permits and council tax records, etc.

The FoI request was very revealing, and indicated that no single local authority that responded to this enquiry was yet in a position to manage their applications (and data) entirely in a cloud environment. In fact, 85% of councils have less than half of their applications and data in the cloud, with 77% storing less than a quarter in a cloud environment.

The findings show that legacy IT systems are the main culprit for local authorities’ struggle to fully embrace the cloud, which can make it a challenge to consolidate and transition data and applications. Thirty-five per cent of councils told Citrix they are not outsourcing or downsizing their physical IT infrastructure in favour of a cloud model, and do not have plans to do so.

Yet cloud solutions are typically more cost effective, scalable, secure and flexible than legacy alternatives, and offer councils a solution to bridging the £5.8 billion funding gap they currently face. Encouragingly, 75% of local authorities indicate they are considering investment in cloud infrastructure and technologies within the next 12 months, and 38% also confirmed that they are either preparing for, or in the process of, moving to a cloud-based model by outsourcing and downsizing their IT infrastructure including on premise servers and physical hardware.

It seems inevitable that in the future the cloud will become integral to the delivery of local authority services, but based on the current situation and outcomes of the enquiry, transformation will most likely take place in stages. It is evident that councils will continue to review the possibilities of the cloud, and, at least in the short term, a mix of private and hybrid environments appear to be the most likely scenario.

Ultimately, change is indeed afoot, and it is important to note that this is only a snapshot of local authorities across the country.


Citrix issued the following questions under a Freedom of Information request in March 2018, to 80 local authorities across the UK, with 50 per cent responding:

How does your local authority currently access and manage citizen data? Please select the answer that applies.

  • On-premises
  • In a public cloud In a private cloud
  • Hybrid cloud model
  • Other, please state:

Is your local authority considering investing further in cloud infrastructure and technologies — such as software, platform or infrastructure as a service (SaaS, PaaS or IaaS) — in the next 12 months?

  • Yes / No / Don’t know

Is your IT team confident your local authority has a single view of its citizens? This means there is only one database entry per citizen with access to all service history (e.g. parking permits and council tax records).

  • Yes / No / Don’t know

What approximate percentage of your data and applications are currently ‘in the cloud’?

  • Zero
  • 1-25%
  • 26-50%
  • 51-75%
  • 76-99%
  • All of our applications and data are hosted in the cloud

Are all of your staff that work with IT / computers able to access data files and applications when working remotely?

  • Yes / No / Don’t know

Is your IT department outsourcing or downsizing its physical IT infrastructure, (e.g. on-premises servers and physical hardware), in favour of a cloud model?

  • Yes – we have already done so
  • Yes – we are planning to do so in the next 12 months
  • Yes – we are in the process of doing so
  • No – we do not plan to do this