I blogged last week following reading an article on www.thisiscornwall.co.uk about a dispuite at Cornwall council. It seems the CEO and the council’s ten person Cabinet want to push ahead with an outsourcing contract, which includes IT services, with either CSC of BT.
Councillors are unhappy for a couple of reasons. There is a feeling that a decision of this magnitude, which “fundamentally changes how the council works” should be decided by full council vote and not the ten person Cabinet that has so far been doing all the negotiating. There is also a belief outsourcing to private firms, which the shared service involves, is the wrong thing to do.
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To put it into perspective the deal, which will be signed with BT or CSC if it goes through, will see services such as libraries, benefits, payroll and IT services passed over to a supplier as well as 1000 workers.
There are quite a lot of shared services agreements in local government at the moment. With cuts on the agenda it is being sold as a magic wand answer to the problem of supplying the same level of service at a lower cost. But the public sector is a place where politics and morals are more prevalent than in the private sector.
I have spoken to two councillors at the council. They are both opposed to the shared service agreement.
Here is their reasoning.
Councillor Ron Nolan said although he is not a proponent of shared services, it is the fact that such a fundamental change is not being decided by full council that is the area of contention for him. “I am not keen on shared services because what we have seen at other councils has not worked.”
He said his views are shared by many councillors. “We even had a vote of the full council and 49 members out of 123 voted against it, which was more than those that voted for it. But the council counted those that abstained as voting for it.”
Councillor Andrew Wallis, who has set up an online petition to attempt to have the issue debated at full council, said it has exceeded the 5,000 signatures required to push through a re-examination of the proposal.
He is strongly opposed to shared services in local government. “I do not believe it is in the best interest of the council to hand too much over to a private company. This is most of our core services and a private company is answerable to its shareholders not our citizens,” said Wallis.
See also this article about an outsourcing contract in the South West of England and the problems it is having: Southwest One shared service under spotlight after “shambolic accounting revealed.”
Also see the damaging impact shared services are having on local government IT teams: Shared services and outsourcing taking its toll on public sector IT jobs.
Better still give me your views below.