Cornwall set to vote on shared services
Over half of staff prefer in-house option but local business backs BT plan
A full session of Cornwall council is due to vote on Tuesday 11th December on whether to issue an invitation to tender to BT for a £300m proposed part-privatised joint venture.
The proposed strategic partnership would see BT run a variety of council and NHS services through a joint venture. The projects covered by the contract would include a variety of telehealth ventures, the establishment of common ICT infrastructure, joined-up procurement and commissioning support, document management, and customer access, to include websites and contact centres.
BT has said that it will keep the offer to the council open until the end of March 2013.
The expected outcome of the vote is still in doubt, as of the 123 councillors, 48 belong to the Conservative party, 37 are Liberal Democrat, 28 are Independent, six are members of Mebyon Kernow, two are 'standalone independent' and one belongs to the Labour party. One seat is currently vacant. It is unclear whether councillors will even vote along party lines.
News emerged today that in a survey of 467 of Cornwall council's 850 staff, 55% supported the option to continue on an in-house basis, while 33% supported the BT bid and 12% said they were undecided.
However, one local business group has already come out in favour of the joint venture. Cornwall Business Partnership (CBP) recently wrote to council leader Jim Currie expressing concern about the possibility of the BT bid being rejected. The letter said, "From our understanding of the project, the proposals include very significant job creation."
The letter claims that the benefits of the scheme include 500 guaranteed full-time jobs, £60m savings and £89m from improved procurement processes.
In its latest report, the council's Single Issue Panel raised a number of concerns about the joint venture. For example, the report stressed the need for consensus both within the council and among the wider public, cautioned about a lack of competitive bidding, and warned about the risk emanating from the fact that there has been a lack of consideration of alternatives to the BT bid.
BT is 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.