Dave Orr on Southwest One – no-one is to blame

It does make one despair at times as we hear the litany of public sector issues and failures, and the fact that no-one ever - or very rarely - seems to suffer personally  for errors that cost the poor old taxpayer millions. This was originally a comment from our regular writer Dave Orr of Southwest One fame, after our piece on the latest local authority outsourcing failure, but it was so good I wanted to feature it in its own right here.

Regrettably no-one cares even when the original “sinners” are still around. In Somerset, most of the South West One architects have thrived and even in one case, been honourably elevated, so as to speak.

In Somerset and also in 2007, all three political parties (Blue, Yellow & Red) backed the formation of South West One with IBM; the Full Council vote wasn’t even taken as a recorded vote. I estimate that the South West One contract with IBM has cost Somerset taxpayers at least £50m more than has been saved, taking into account all costs and overheads.

In the Somerset County Council elections in May, all three parties did not, for some unfathomable reason, want to make South West One an election issue. Sadly, the electorate seem inured to all of this “stuff” and basically no-one appears to “give a damn” anymore, with 72% simply not bothering to vote. Can anyone really blame them?

The Lib Dems were in charge when IBM were awarded the contract. Up to making IBM sole bidder, the Leader was Cathy Bakewell. Mrs Bakewell has not suffered any reputational damage from the disastrous South West One contract, as she has now just been elevated to the House of Lords and made a Baroness! Eyes passim.

The Lib Dem Finance Portfolio Holder Sam Crabb who had delegated authority to sign off the deal with IBM in 2007 is now Lib Dem Party Leader in Somerset. Eyes passim.

The Director of Finance Roger Kershaw who had delegated authority to sign off the deal the deal with IBM in 2007 is a highly paid Finance Director at Derby City Council. Eyes passim.

The Conservative Chair of Audit Committee in 2007 was David Huxtable who supported the deal with IBM in 2007 despite concerns being raised. He is now in Cabinet at Somerset County Council and is in charge of the money! Eyes passim.

The controversial and colourful former Chief Executive of Somerset County Council Alan Jones went with a payoff of over £300K and a gold-plated pension of around £80K. On his LinkedIn page he claims to be consulting for Liberata to help top up his gold-plated pension back to the £163K he earned before early retirement! Eyes passim.

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Voices (9)

  1. Jo Michaels:

    Does anyone know anything about the Citrix system being used by SW1. I hear there are too many overpaid consultants taking their time!

  2. David Atkinson:

    Great piece….and well said Trevor and Dan.

  3. Dan:

    Until the lessons are learnt, it cannot be considered ‘old news’.

  4. Trevor Black:

    Bill this is not old news but highly topical and relevant and reflects not only the disparity that exists between self serving public officials and the little people but how they get rewarded when the “little people” get punished. We can never criticize corrupt regimes overseas when this sort of thing is becoming typical of public life in the UK. This was criminal incompetence on a huge scale and they should have been punished for it.

  5. Bill Cinelow:

    This is such old news – david orr has been saying the same thing over and over and as a reader this is so boring. Please can we have something new rather than rehashing the same story.. you’ve only just had a ‘mini series’ from David on the same subject..

    1. Dave Orr:

      Hi Bill,

      Can I please supply a little context to refute the “SW1 is old news” hashtag you have blogged!

      The excellent IT journalist Tony Collins did a piece on Sandwell and BT parting company in their JVC and whether the Cornwall and Barnet outsources would in the end go the same way or run into trouble (as have Beds, Suffolk, Liverpool, Birmingham & Somerset.

      Tony lamented that all too many of those who sign these big outsourcing contracts, promising to square an impossible circle, are long gone and then are not accountable to the electorate. I simply commented to that article that is not the case in Somerset.

      The article above was in fact a posting made as a comment to Tony Collins BT/Sandwell article:


      Peter decided to re-run the comments as a piece in it’s own right and with Universal Dis-Credit and the DWP in the news (see Tony Collins again – excellent and appeared as expert on Radio 4 Toady programme) then I guess that it remains relevant.

      I think that the day we all shrug our shoulders and say “BORING – LET’S ALL MOVE ON NOW”, is the day that potentially corrupt and/or egotistical vanity projects pass by un-challenged. –

      Do we then accept, by cynical omission, that ripping off taxpayers and service users for profit is an acceptable form of capitalism and business behaviour?

      These wasted £billions and £millions from NHS IT, DWP Universal Credit, SW1 etc etc undermine not only our communities, but more importantly, give socially responsible capitalism and functioning market economies a bad name.

      I thank other readers for commenting positively, even though the article was, from my view, unexpected but nevertheless welcome.

      You will all be pleased to know that IBM are disposing of their global customer service outsourcing business and SW1 may well be a casualty (especially as they owe IBM £48m in parent company loans)!!!

      Eyes Passim……….

    2. Dave Orr:

      “Bill Cinelow” -Time to declare who you really are. Do you work for IBM or SW1?

  6. Roger Conway:

    Yes Peter, another excellent piece from Dave, who is right on the (disappearing) money.

    This demonstrates that in spite of overwhelming evidence that should, as a minimum, trigger investigations of possible & potential corruption, no one gives a damn (nogad). Actually, I’m not as polite as Dave and I’d express it as NOGAF

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