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Full Council votes to enter into reduced deal with British Telecom

For the past 18 months, Cornwall Council has been in discussions with a few private sector companies about the possible outsourcing of some of the Council's services. This is not, in itself, new or surprising. We already have contracts with private sector companies for services such as waste collection, waste disposal, street cleaning, much of adult social care is delivered through private contractors, etc. However, what became clear over time with the latest proposal was the scale of the potential new deal and the fundamental changes that could occur to the control of council services. Services such as benefits payments, payroll, One Stop Shops, libraries and even procurement could be handed over to the private sector company in a 10 year deal. Because of the flexibility allowed in what the companies might bid for and the commercial confidentiality considerations, most councillors were not kept fully informed of the scale of the proposals. However, there was growing unease amongst many backbench members. 

This resulted in the removal of the Council Leader in October 2012, followed by the election of a new leader who pledged to bring the whole matter back to Full Council before any further steps were taken to outsource any of the Council services.

At the Full Council meeting of 11 December, a very complicated paper was debated involving numerous permutations of possible deals with British Telecom or other options such as continuing with all services in-house, or new Council owned subsidiary companies. After a lengthy and somewhat heated debate, votes were taken which decided:

1) Not to progress the original version of a large joint venture by 71 votes to 30.

2) Not to keep all services in-house, by a close vote of 46 to 50 (I voted to keep the services in-house and I was surprised and disappointed that this option was rejected).

3) Supported what was described as a BT-lite deal on a show of hands.

The option supported was described in the papers as follows:

IT, Document Management, Corporate Transactional Services (ie the services that have no interaction with the public such as payroll and invoice processing) and Telehealth/Telecare staff would TUPE transfer to a new private sector company which would provide services to the Council, Health partners and other public authorities under trading arrangements. The Council, Health partners and the private sector company collaborate through a “partnership” arrangement. This is the option that BT developed through the competitive dialogue process over the last 10 months without any of the Council’s customer facing services (Libraries, One Stop Shop, Contact Centre, Council tax collection and Benefits assessments). As the contract is incremental, should Members and partners consider it to be successful after a reasonable amount of time, we could consider putting services into the Partnership, but that would need to be on a case by case basis. It should be noted that the competitive dialogue process with BT has not been closed so we are still able to hold discussions if we wish to propose changes to what is on offer.

Same as Thick JV but with scope reduced to only those services that are not outwardly citizen facing ie. IT, Document Management, Corporate Transactional Services, Telehealth/Telecare and the project for improving Information Sharing.

Full papers can be found on the Council's website at item 11 on the page at Council meeting 11 December


December 2012

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