The Cabinet Office’s choice of Steria as preferred bidder for a government back-office shared service has met with “grave concerns” from the union representing staff.
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As part of its Next Generation Shared Services Strategy, the government plans to share back office services such as HR, procurement, finance and payroll functions across government departments in five shared services centres.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The Civil Service is moving to be faster, smaller and more unified and sharing services is a central part of this. The strategy sets out a new model to share HR, procurement, finance and payroll functions with five centres instead of the current eight in order to deliver more efficient and cost-effective services."
It confirmed that Steria has been chosen as preferred bidder and that negotiations are on-going.
But the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) union has expressed concerns that data – such as HR and procurement information – and jobs could end up in offshore locations in a deal with Steria.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "We have grave concerns, not only about the security of people's jobs, but also about the threat that work will go overseas.
"We have asked the Cabinet Office to confirm there will be no offshoring and it is very worrying that it appears unwilling to do this."
Steria runs the NHS shared business service (NHS SBS). It is a shared business service joint venture between Steria and the NHS that uses an Oracle platform and a single set of processes to run the back offices of NHS trusts. Over 100 NHS trusts use the service. When the service was first set up, half the jobs - some 300 - were immediately offshored to Pune in India. This figure has grown as new business has been added. In July 2011, the last figure seen by Computer weekly it was up to 1,200.
The government aims to save £600m per year through the Next Generation Shared Services Strategy, which the Cabinet Office has dubbed as "ambitious but not without risk".
Last year a report from the National Audit Office said the government’s £1.4bn shared services centres had failed to achieve value for money.