A major row has erupted between IT outsourcer CSL and Taunton Deane Borough Council in Somerset over the termination of a revenues and benefits contract and the return of services in-house.
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The confrontation is a further example of the difficulties local authorities can face once they have outsourced core business processes. It follows Lambeth council's problems with Capita (Computer Weekly, 13 April) and Kingston council's decision to terminate its contract with EDS (Computer Weekly, 2 December 1999).
It also illustrates the ongoing crisis in the delivery of housing benefits, which has affected Sheffield, Manchester, Hackney, and other councils.
Jefferson Horsley, leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council, told Computer Weekly that after a stormy meeting last week, CSL had reneged on agreements and withdrawn its commitment to a smooth transfer of benefits and council tax systems to the authority.
"We are very disappointed at CSL's arbitrary action, which is not in the interests of the public," said Horsley. "The council is continuing its work towards disengagement. Our prime concern is the return of a quality service to claimants, ratepayers and landlords."
Horsley said he believed CSL expected the council to drop all financial claims on the outsourcer in return for a smooth handover.
Bob McCullough, CSL's acting general manager of the Taunton Deane contract, reacted angrily to the statement.
"CSL has every intention of honouring the company's offer to withdraw from the contract on the terms that the council received in March. It is the council that has failed to honour the March agreement through counter-proposals that were placed before CSL," he said.
McCullough denied that CSL's co-operation was conditional on the council dropping claims for compensation over service delivery.