FoI request finds that local councils are being squeezed by Oracle on lengthy and expensive licenses

The public sector will struggle to deliver value for taxpayers until it looks beyond the big enterprise database names to reduce the hefty costs and management burden of their databases. This is following a Freedom of Information request conducted by TmaxSoft, which found that the vast majority of local authorities source their relational database software from Oracle, despite the ready availability of cheaper, more flexible alternatives.

Freedom of Information requests were sent to 75 local councils across the country in order to find out what Oracle’s market penetration was, how local councils were using their software systems and what the associated costs were. Of the 60 that responded within the allotted time frame, some 92 per cent stated that they used Oracle relational database software, echoing findings from a similar request conducted by TmaxSoft in 2015. Moreover, 22 per cent stated that their Oracle licenses were over four years in length.

According to Carl Davies, UK CEO of TmaxSoft UK, Oracle’s continued dominance in the public sector spells bad news for the taxpayer, with public sector organisations paying over the odds for software available elsewhere at significantly lower prices.

Local councils have undergone an unprecedented period of budget cuts imposed by central government over the last years, which has left many authorities struggling to deliver crucial, frontline services to their residents and local businesses. At times like this, it’s crucial for councils to look at every aspect of their operations to reduce costs and this is especially true when it comes to technology. However, it is clear from our research we have conducted that this is not happening, with Oracle still dominating the public sector database market.

Oracle’s licenses are notoriously opaque, and the company is well-known for its underhand tactics that squeeze its customers, so that one in five local authorities are on Oracle licenses that are longer than four years is particularly concerning. These lengthy licenses are often difficult to navigate and easy to fall foul of, meaning that customers often over-license to make sure they are fully covered. In many cases, customers may not even know what they are signing up for, making it near impossible for councils to know whether or not they are delivering good value for taxpayers.

Now is the time for the public sector to look beyond incumbents like Oracle and find viable alternatives in the relational database space, such as TmaxSoft’s Tibero.

The need to navigate the complex licensing terms, convoluted pricing structures, and legacy technology of many of these solutions is a time and money drain. It creates burdens that distract public sector IT departments from the fundamental task of innovation – whether that’s having to constantly prepare for arbitrary software audits, paying for infrastructure you’re not using due to constricting licensing agreements, or spending time on integrating these databases with new technology.

Tibero is an Oracle-compatible database that gives users the freedom of choice to retain their investment in both people and technology, with the same expected levels of performance and familiar interface. The only differences are the more agreeable costs and flexible licensing terms; without the risk and expense associated with changing to any other vendor or open source. Not only does Tibero’s core technology enable high productivity and operate with stability during peak levels of demand, based on a time scale of five years, users can enjoy cost savings of up to 60 per cent compared to other existing commercial database systems in the market.


TmaxSoft’s Freedom of Information request surveyed 75 local councils from across England, including major cities and smaller, rural authorities. 60 councils responded to the request, providing information on the costs of running Oracle relational database software, the licensing terms and auditing frequency.

UK councils – 418 in total

England (353 total)

  • 27 County Councils (upper tier)
  • 201 District Councils (lower tier)
  • 32 London Boroughs (unitary)
  • 36 Metropolitan Boroughs (unitary)
  • 55 Unitary authorities (unitary)
  • 2 Sui Generis authorities – City of London Corporation and Isles of Scilly (unitary)

Wales (22 total)

  • 22 Unitary authorities (unitary)

Scotland (32 total)

  • 32 Unitary authorities (unitary)

Northern Ireland (11 total)

  • 11 Unitary authorities (unitary)