Home Office seeks SRO for troubled emergency services comms network programme

Official expected to strike "appropriate balance between delivering at pace and managing operational risk" on delayed and over-budget programme
Photo: Martin Addison/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Home Office is offering up to £140,000 for a civil servant to take over responsibility for its troubled programme to replace the communications network for emergency services.

The department is looking for a senior responsible owner, or SRO, to take on the emergency services communications programme, an initiative to replace the Airwave comms system for police, firefighters and other services that began in 2011.

Since then, the projected costs of the work have risen by nearly 50% and the switch to the new network has been severely delayed. The move to the new network from the existing network, Airwave is not expected to happen until December 2022 at the earliest – three years later than originally planned.

“As the SRO you will be accountable for ensuring the programme meets its objectives, delivers the projected outcomes and realises the benefits that our stakeholders need,” a job advert for the role said. 

“This critical role will enable thousands of police, paramedics, firefighters and first responders in Britain to deliver the best possible service for the public, using technology that can be relied upon to deliver in the toughest operational circumstances.”

Among other things, the SRO must ensure implementation of the programme – which was previously referred to as the Emergency Services Network programme – “strikes an appropriate balance between delivering at pace and managing operational risk”.

And they must ensure programme and delivery teams “remain focused on the key needs and priorities of emergency services user communities at all times”, the ad said.

The programme has been delayed for several reasons, including delays to the development of the communication system itself and problems caused when different suppliers were given different technical criteria to work with.

The SRO must also have the skills to “communicate to stakeholders and ministers to ensure that the programme has the resources to deliver”, and the willingness to constantly seek opportunities for “innovation, improvement, efficiency and value for money”.

In October 2019, the Home Office said it was “reviewing ESN’s governance and management structure to ensure it will support the ramp up phase of delivery”.

It said it was strengthening oversight of the project at senior level as part of that review, having also set up an independent assurance panel that included “senior representatives with a wealth of experience of major programmes and the telecoms sector”.

The announcement came after several scathing reports on the programme by MPs and oversight bodies. Last May, an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee concluded the Home Office had failed to “get a grip” on whether it could deliver the programme despite extending its budget and deadline multiple times.

Applications for the SRO job close on 8 December.

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