By Tony Collins
Councillors in Cornwall voted unanimously today (23 October 2012) for a joint venture with BT to be considered more carefully, and for other options to be investigated, without any pressure to finalise a deal by the end of next month, which was the original intention.
The motion passed by the council was that the “current proposals for shared services shall not progress to the ‘invitation to submit final tenders’ stage until they have been debated and unless approved by a meeting of full council”.
The motion called on the Chief Executive [Kevin Lavery] to “investigate fully and as a matter of urgency all reasonable methods of delivering council services covered by the proposals for the strategic partnership which addresses the need to make efficiency savings and generate income”.
Councillors expect Lavery to investigate a “thin” joint venture in which the council and a partner share ownership of a new company. There would be no early, large scale transfer of Cornwall Council staff into the company. Cornwall Council would continue to receive its shared services internally. As the joint venture company won new work – if it did – staff would transfer into it.
Councillors also want Lavery to investigate an in-house option and forming a mutual, which would win the support of central government.
BT, meanwhile, has said it will keep its offer to the council open until the end of its financial year in March. Jim Currie, Cornwall’s leader, has taken over responsibility for leading the shared services discussions. He says he wants more and better information on the proposals. Most of the information has so far come from BT which has “guaranteed” to save the council money, increase investment, transform services and add at least 500 jobs. In BT’s small print it points out that its commitments to the council are “draft” or, at this stage, “non-binding”.
At the full council meeting this morning one councillor called for an investigation into whether proceeding with one supplier BT – CSC having withdrawn from the bidding in part because of a “confused” political situation in Cornwall – would meet EC tendering rules.
Councillors have set no deadline on when they will come to a decision on the BT proposals or on other options.
It’s wonderful to hear that councillors in Cornwall recognise that there could potentially be “employee owned mutual and other in-house options” that would prove to be far more beneficial than wall-to-wall, service outsourcing to BT.
The whole motion is as follows:
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