Cornwall JV / Outsource – Council agrees more work is needed

We’ve been following with interest the proposals for Cornwall County council to enter into a complex joint venture / BPO partnership with a major supplier. The field narrowed down to just BT after CSC withdrew the other week, following the leader of the council stepping down over the fuss caused by the way the whole proposal was being handled. (A small Cabinet of councillors was pushing ahead despite reservations from the wider council and indeed residents).

So yesterday saw a full council meeting, triggered by a petition from residents to re-consider the proposal. I watched a little bit of the meeting on the very good quality webcast (it is amazing when you think about it -  we just take it for granted we can watch a live council meeting hundreds or even thousands of miles away)!

There was actually considerable consensus in the meeting around the view that the options needed further exploration, and that issuing the ITT to BT should not go ahead at the moment.  As well as the full partnership / outsource, with staff transferring to BT, the councillors want to consider a “thin trading JV” and a public sector only shared services model.  It certainly seems right that a proper options appraisal is carried out – the lack of that was a significant weakness in the previous full steam ahead approach, which caused consternation amongst many observers.

Here is the full motion – passed with 93 in favour, 7 abstentions and no-one against!

1) This Council expresses its thanks to all the people who signed the petition and have thereby strongly engaged in the local democratic process.

2) The current proposals (BT) for the Strategic Partnership for Support Services shall not progress to the Invitation to Final Tender (ItT) until after they have been debated and unless approved by a meeting of Cornwall Council.

3) The Chief Executive be requested to investigated fully, as a matter of urgency, all reasonable alternative methods of delivering the Council services covered by the proposals for the said Strategic Partnership, which addresses the need to make efficiency savings and to generate income including; a thin trading JV working with a commercial partner to deliver services outside Cornwall; a shared services project with local NHS and other public services, but without a private sector partner; an employee owned mutual and other in-house options

4) The Council’s draft Business Plan 2012-16 be prepared to reflect recommendations 2 and 3 above.

5) The full Council supports the ongoing work by the SIP for Strategic Services

Coincidentally, Suffolk Council announced yesterday that when their current major contract with BT comes to an end in 18 months time, they will seek a number of smaller contracts with different specialist providers. Here is the article in the Local Government Chronicle. Interesting, and we’ll take a look soon at why the tide seems to be turning against mega-partnership type outsources, particularly in the local council environment.

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Voices (4)

  1. Dave Orr:

    Great article on Local Gov & Options here:

    I am for “Right Sourcing”:

    Outsourcing something transactional & predictable can be captured in a manageable contract e.g. hosting a mainframe; running payroll; cleaning & catering an estate of buildings etc.

    Then it should be possible for “the client to have a strong grip on the facts, implications and risks”.

    I am all for engaging with the private sector for expertise, capacity & capability…..but in manageable way and by retaining control of service direction and continuity i.e. by service or by programme or by project.

    Following Somerset’s disastrous joint venture with IBM for SW1, I have concluded that 10-15 year joint ventures through complex contracts, is a terrible way (probably the worst way) to engage the private sector.

    Essentially, there is a natural tension between Public Authorities wanting as much services and goods for as little cost as possible and the Contractors wanting the opposite! Ever thus……

    Outsourcing a cluster of compex & interacting public services for 10-15 years, that will have unpredictable changes upon them – not least from future Government legislation, socio-economic & technological changes etc is nigh on impossible to capture in a complex contract that can flex and stay “fit for purpose” for up to 15 years.

    BT have prior “form” for “buying business” in the public sector and making big losses & write-downs later:

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