Computer failure hits email of 2,000 Norfolk County Council staff
09:10 30 April 2014
Embarrassed council bosses have apologised for a computer failure, which has meant almost 2,000 staff at Norfolk County Council have not been able to read or send emails - for more than a week.
And officers admitted they had no way of accessing accounts to find out if vital emails, such as tip-offs about concerns over vulnerable children, were sat unread in email boxes.
The problem, which has affected a third of the council’s workforce, started last Tuesday, when workers returned from the Easter Monday bank holiday.
And despite staff and experts from Microsoft working “around the clock” the problems are continuing more than a week later.
David Collinson, the council’s assistant director, public protection, said: “The council’s email system suffered a fault over the Easter weekend with about 2000 staff, a third of users, affected.
“Council ICT staff have been working around the clock with specialists from Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard to identify and rectify the issues. “Every avenue is being explored, using both internal and external expertise, to restore a stable and reliable service to all users – and our communities who need to contact individuals directly.
“This has been an unprecedented event as we would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.
“Staff have been using alternative methods of communication where possible - such as using telephone, text or meeting face-to-face.”
Only people whose surnames began with certain letters were affected by the problem, which hit one of the three servers the council uses.
Some people started to get use of their emails back yesterday.
But Mr Collinson said: “We need to take a systematic approach to restoring the system and this will take some time yet to complete.
“We have diverted critical and customer facing email boxes to reduce the impact on the public and phone lines and internet remain unaffected.”
When asked whether the problem could have led to crucial emails from members of the public going unread, a council spokesman said it was not possible to know if that was the case.
But he said: “If anyone has raised an issue with us which they think needs an immediate response and they have not heard back from us, we would encourage them to call us direct to discuss over the phone.”
In December, the county council announced it had signed a “ground-breaking agreement” to transform and improve public services in Norfolk by harnessing the power of new technology.
The Digital Norfolk Ambition project - between Norfolk County Council and HP, and its key partners Microsoft and Vodafone - was hailed as a way to make more than £10m savings from the council’s IT budget over the next five years.
The move, the council said, would also provide front-line staff with “the latest technology to help deliver efficient and sustainable public services”.