Screenshots of Cumberland and Westmorland & Furness websites

When seven council websites needed merged into two

Rohallion are happy to work in an agile way and take a pragmatic approach. Everyone is extremely supportive and easy to talk to. They understand our needs and help us cut through the noise to add value quickly.

Craig Barker

Acting Senior Manager, Digital and Customer Experience

Cumberland Council and Westmorland & Furness Council

The Challenge

It was announced in July 2021 that Cumbria County Council and its six district councils would be split into two new unitary authorities - Cumberland Council and Westmorland Furness Council.

April 1st 2023 was set as ‘vesting day’ for the two new authorities to officially come into existence. One of the main challenges was to bring together seven separate websites into two new properties from the multiple platforms used by individual councils. This needed to be done with a tight timeframe, made more difficult by legacy systems and the amount of technical debt.

Other challenges included:

  • Updating documents - having no centralised system made it hard to find the original authors
  • Technical problems - migrating content wasn’t a simple export in many cases
  • Knowledge gaps - CMS expertise being lost when team members moved on

Craig Barker is Acting Senior Manager, Digital and Customer Experience for the two new authorities and appreciates the pressures across departments. “When you’re going through local government reorganisation, there’s a lot happening, not just with the websites. There are always other priorities, so the more we can do to help the people rationalising the various services into one solution, the better,” he says.

The Solution

We had an existing relationship with Copeland Borough Council, one of the authorities impacted by the merger. They had already been investigating the many benefits of using LocalGov Drupal, and through various stakeholder conversations, it was chosen as the CMS for the new Cumberland Council and Westmorland & Furness Council websites. This meant migrating content from other platforms including Umbraco and EasySite into one unified solution going forward.

LocalGov Drupal was being used by closer to 30 councils at that point and was seen as the most suitable platform by the Joint Working Group due to:

  • Economies of scale
  • Collaboration
  • Portability

“One of the benefits of working with Rohallion is their involvement in the LocalGov Drupal community. Having this embedded supplier helps us share and collaborate with other councils across the country,” Craig states.

Using any of the previous platforms for the new sites would have impacted future portability and increased reliance on specific individuals. LocalGov Drupal and Rohallion have added more resilience to the councils’ online presence.

We delivered two new LocalGov Drupal websites in four months. There was initial nervousness among some of Craig’s team because of the different tech stack being used and whether this would impact the need for their skills. However, he’s seen everyone embrace it and flourish as part of a collaborative unit.

Technology Used

Drupal logo and wordmark
LocalGov Drupal logo

The Impact

There was considerable technical debt in the previous Cumbria County Council solution. It used a heavily customised proprietary CMS which incurred an annual support fee. However, there were several issues, including:

  • Integrations were unstable and would often fail when unrelated changes were made to the CMS
  • The operational support wasn’t always helpful due to the level of customisation that had been done
  • The money spent on support costs was wasted
  • Staff were frustrated at how long things would take to implement and fix

Using LocalGov Drupal for the unitary authority websites has eradicated these problems. Tailored support is available through Rohallion and the wider community, with everyone on the same page regarding shared code and integrations. “Many of my team have mentioned how much they like the fact they’re not alone when developing. Having access to online support and calls means less frustration and quicker completion of tasks by up to three times,” Craig mentions.

Moving from several different platforms to LocalGov Drupal has also made Craig’s job easier. Managing the web team isn’t his only responsibility. When he started the role, it was a smooth transition because he didn’t have to be on top of all the legacy structure and technical details of the old website estate. “My team can self-manage more thanks to the support provided by Rohallion and the LocalGov Drupal community,” he attests.

The professional development of the team is an additional benefit. Becoming experts in an open source platform opens up more opportunities in the future than using legacy systems day-to-day. Being able to share what they build with other councils and learn from people in similar roles increases confidence and delivers more consistency for end-users.


Client Feedback

Craig particularly appreciates our understanding of the internal issues faced when migrating content and producing new local authority websites. Our team members have experience working in the public sector, so we recognise the environment and where projects might stall.

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