By Tony Collins
A week after praising the Southwest One joint venture with IBM, officers at Taunton Deane Borough Council are recommending bringing some services back in-house.
Last week a report to councillors said:
“Service delivery for TDBC, viewed in the round, is broadly on track. The majority of services perform well or extremely well (eg Customer Services). We do have concerns in some areas and we are working closely with the services in question to remedy the issues.”
Now Penny James, Chief Executive of the council, has written to staff about bringing services back in-house.
The Corporate & Client Services Team has over the past few months with the assistance of Southwest One (SWO) reviewed the services being provided to TDBC under our contract with SWO.
“The review has considered whether, in the light of the decisions taken by Somerset County Council to remove a number of their services from SWO and by Avon and Somerset Police to remove Property Services, TDBC [Taunton Deane Borough Council] should also consider whether services should be removed…
“The review concludes that it would be prudent for TDBC to bring back in-house the following service areas: Corporate Administration, Design & Print, Facilities Management, Finance Advisory, HR Advisory (including Learning and Development) and Property Services. These are all services where TDBC has largely lost the benefit of shared service delivery.”
James says a formal decision will require the agreement of councillors after consultation with staff directly affected by the potential changes. The consultation will end on 31 October and a decision will be taken by the full council on 12 November 2013.
“Should the members agree to the return of these services the necessary changes are likely to be implemented early in 2014,” says James.
In a statement to Taunton’s Corporate Scrutiny Committee last week, local resident Dave Orr, who has campaigned for the full truth over the Southwest One venture to be made public, told Taunton’s councillors that the council had borrowed £3.65m in 2008 to buy SAP from IBM and Southwest One.
“That debt was to be paid out of procurement savings and should have been paid off 18 months ago. Instead, almost £1m of the debt for SAP is left, incurring interest charges that are reducing funding for our Council services.”
Orr said in the statement that Southwest One has continued to make losses and IBM has disposed of its global customer service business which adds to uncertainty over the future of the joint venture.
“Will Southwest One survive to the end of contract in 2017 or will parent company actions by IBM from the USA bring about an earlier demise? What is Taunton Deane’s response to this added uncertainty and risk?
He concluded: “Don’t throw any more money away in South West One – we can’t afford it.”