ESN Staff Reductions Planned, No New Budget, Timeline Details
Friday, June 29, 2018 | Comments

Aside from an update on staffing and plans for upcoming user pilots, the U.K. Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) received little new information on the Emergency Service Network (ESN) or the details of a budget and timelines report slated to be released by end-July.

“The review is being conducted internally but is not yet complete,” said Sir Philip Rutnam, permanent secretary, U.K. Home Office. “I don’t want to give dates; it’s premature at this point.”

Committee members expressed frustration at the lack of information and said it was the fifth time the committee had questioned Home Office and ESN officials on the status of the program, which is at least 15 months behind schedule.

Rutnam did say the ESN’s 340-memember team is being reset with fewer staff. About 70 staff, mostly contractors, have left the team. The program plans to have 140 staff by the end of the year.

He called a May article in “The Register” that suggested the program might be completely shut down “an exaggeration.” “The strategic intent behind the ESN is still in place and remains,” Rutnam said.

Stephen Webb, ESN senior responsible owner, said the network is in a good state. EE is close to offering prioritized data, with data-focused user pilots possible by the end of the year and mission-critical voice pilots next year. Those users most interested and prepared for the pilots would be selected.

Ambulance trusts are likely to be the first data pilot participants, Webb said. “It's relatively simple to put in an ESN SIM (subscriber identity module) card and have far better data quality,” he said. “Ambulances are reaching the borders of what they can do with commercial broadband as it stands.”

The exchange was part of a larger hearing on the Home Office, covering other issues such as Brexit, border control and security databases.

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