Southwest One – the complete story from Dave Orr

We know that many readers found the series of articles from Dave Orr about the Southwest One joint venture interesting and illuminating. They also contained some really important lessons for all public organisations - indeed, private firms too - who are considering large-scale outsourcing of back office type processes and activities.

We published four articles covering the whole history of the venture between IBM and three public bodies - Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane Council and the Somerset & Avon Police Service.  But we felt Orr's work needed preserving more permanently, so we've put those articles together into a single document for anyone who wants to read in its entirety and maybe circulate further.

You can download the pdf of "From Hubris to High Court (almost) - the Story of Southwest One" now here -  Dave Orr Paper  There is no cost, not even a registration or anything needed other than 20 seconds of your time.

We hope you enjoy it and find it interesting, and we thank Dave Orr again for all the effort he put into the writing, and of course all his campaigning for openness and transparency throughout the whole story.

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Voices (8)

  1. Dave Orr:

    Southwest One contract dispute cost council £5.9m

  2. Stephen Heard:

    Excellent summary of events which probably only skates over the real issues. I remember meeting with the IBM South West One team in the early days when I was at OGC Buying Solutions. They were toting the virtues of this model to us to see if it could be rolled out over the rest of the UK local authority procurement world with OGCBS as a strategic partner. We could see the flaws in their proposals and highlighted this out to them and in particular their plans to charge a joining fee for other users. In fact they later offered me a job as one of the directors which was an attractive proposition as it would have enabled me to return to the west country (me being a Devon boy). However some sixth sense advised me against it! Phew.

    The other complication was that this deal was really getting in the way of negotiations that OGCBS were having with IBM nationally and internationally for bulk licencing agreements and other aggregation deals.

    I also fear that there is another similar story to play out here in Norfolk with the Cory Wheelabrator incinerator deal in Kings Lynn where 65,000 local residents signed a petition against the plans. The contract has been signed with a cancellation fee of £30M and has led to several resignations at county and district level as locally elected representatives, like in South West One, find that negotiating with large multi nationals is not easy. The fiasco has led directly to a change of control at county hall as the previous majority Conservatives ruling party are no longer in overall control. The new controlling alliance of all colours except blue are now calling for a review and being told by council officers that the total bill for cancelling this contract would be nearer £90M! The Chief Executive of Norfolk County Council took early retirement at the end of last year declaring that he did not have the right skill sets to lead an income generating council rather than a revenue spending council! Have a look at for the details.

    And then there are the other plans to regenerate the economy in Norwich which calls for 36,000 houses to be built and a new dual carriageway dubbed locally “the road to nowhere”. The latter was successfully challenged in the high court and is now stalled and the latter is the subject of a full public inquiry. More of these later and how procurement was involved. Its no wonder that leading barristers have a perpetual open contract with local hotels!

  3. Dave Orr:

    SW1 still sucking money out of public services in Somerset:

    As a result of the settlement of a dispute between SCC and Southwest One a cost of £5.461m

    has been incurred in 2012/13. This relates to payments made in prior years for services to be

    received in future years. These services will no longer be receivable in future years, so the

    total amount of the deferred payment has been recognised as an expense during 2012/13

    in line with accounting regulations. (printed page 55)

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