Leeds floods a month on: ‘Digitally stranded’ at height of flood drama

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Hundreds of Leeds City Council employees were left digitally stranded after the authority’s internet provider was flooded on Boxing Day.

The authority’s web servers went down for 24 hours during the height of the drama - leaving many key council staff who were helping the aid effort unable to share vital updates.

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Councillors are now calling for a tightening up of the authority’s digital systems after concerns were raised by members of an internal council watchdog panel.

Coun Jim McKenna told colleagues: “Living in Kirkstall and being flooded out because of Storm Eva, it was a real problem the fact that email was down. But I haven’t seen the reports telling me what we will do should it happen again.”

He explained that both the main and backup servers of the council’s digital supplier - which were located next to each other - were flooded.

Rothwell councillor David Nagle added: “I found the server being down for 24 hours or whatever it was very difficult. I was talking to local residents who were watching the water rising. I was quite upset that, as the local councillor, I couldn’t even send [residents] an email. I know these things happen but we need to be very aware of this for the future. The officers worked very hard over Christmas and the New Year. But that was a huge problem.”

Conservative councillor Dan Cohen questioned the level of “due diligence”, adding that the authority had been left open to a “fundamental operational risk...given that technology drives us”.

Senior officers told the Resources and Strategy Scrutiny Panel that though there had been unforeseeable issues, the flooding had happened at a time when the council was transferring its web services to a new provider anyway. Responding to concerns about the locations of the new servers, the team told the panel: “We have made sure that the hub we have now does have that separation.”

Sarah Champion MP

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