§ Mr. Newton
The computerisation programme, known as the operational strategy, is proceeding well. The three main systems in the plan are in place—those that administer the income support and retirement pensions, and the departmental central index, which links the various systems. Two of the four area computer centres are now in operation, at Washington managed "in house" by the Information Technology Services Directorate and at Livingston managed on contract by Electronic Data Systems. Forty-two local social security offices are now fully linked with the systems through these centres, and the number is currently increasing by two per week. This progress is beginning to be reflected in significant improvements in the speed and accuracy of the service we can provide to our customers, and I am grateful to the many staff throughout the Department who have contributed to this success.
The next step is to complete the network of area computer centres, in order that the benefits of the new systems can be steadily extended to all social security 303W offices and thus to everyone who depends on the service they provide. As has already been announced, these will be at Norcross and at Swindon.
Work is now nearing completion to enable the centre at Norcross to begin operation in January 1990. Following consideration of a tender from Electronic Data Systems, I have decided that this centre will be managed on contract by that company. The contract will be on the same basic terms as their existing management contract at Livingston. As at Livingston civil servants in the area will be free to apply for the new jobs being generated.
The Swindon centre is planned to commence operation towards the end of 1990. The management of the centre will be subject to the outcome of a competitive tendering exercise which I intend to initiate shortly. A formal request for information will be issued.