Cornwall rejects full-scale joint venture with BT
Majority of councillors opt for a 'thin' joint venture alternative
Cornwall Council has voted to reject the option of a full-scale shared services joint venture with BT.
A majority of councillors voted to opt for a 'thin' joint venture instead, which will see the council go ahead with the partnership, but without certain elements such as procurement and libraries.
The possibility of a strategic partnership between BT and the council has been subject to controversy since it was first touted in 2011. The motion to reject it, proposed at today's session of full council, was carried with 71 votes for, 30 against and two abstentions.
Notably, council leader Jim Currie voted to reject the deal.
Councillors then voted against a motion proposing that the council proceed on a purely in-house basis, by 50 votes to 46 for, with no abstentions.
As such, the council is now expected to proceed on a 'thin joint venture' basis, known as 'JV lite', whereby some but not all of the original plan would go ahead.
From a range of options, a majority of councillors chose to proceed with option '6E' which, according to accompanying council documents, is a 'strategic partnership without procurement, libraries, one stop shops and customer facing transactional support services'.
This option is still expected to include the involvement of BT and health partners. Kevin Lavery, the council's chief executive, explained to councillors that "we'd have to go back and chat to our health partners about the thin joint venture option, but in principle we think they'd be supportive."
Commenting on the development, a BT spokesman said, "BT is delighted that Cornwall Council has decided to progress to the final stages in developing a partnership with their Health Partners and BT and we look forward to working with them over the coming weeks to conclude the process."
A report compiled by Lavery details the advantages and disadvantages of option '6E'. According to the report, the benefits of this arrangement are that it 'involves telehealth, telecare, ICT and document management which will drive integration with health' and that there will be 'less council investment required'.
In addition, the document says, 'the partnership strengthens our contractual relationship with health on which we can build further collaboration and efficiency' and 'delivers part of the savings for health partners'.
However, Lavery's report warns that the pitfalls of this approach are that 'shared services and procurement remaining in the council would still have to deliver efficiency savings and therefore risk current standards'. In addition, there would be 'significant reduction in guaranteed new jobs' and 'missed opportunities to trade in transactional support services e.g. contact centres and benefits'.
The 'JV lite' option will now be passed to the Single Issue Panel for further discussion.
The £300m proposed strategic partnership, which has now been abandoned, would have seen BT run a wide variety of council and NHS services through a joint venture.
BT was the sole remaining bidder after CSC decided to withdraw in October, when the council voted to replace Alec Robertson, who was in favour of the joint venture, with Jim Currie, as council leader.