In the past, Councillors have been told there is no alternative to the thick JV, or as it is more known to the layman “outsourcing”. However, on Monday, a briefing was held on at least a dozen alternatives to handing over so many council service to a private company.
The options can be broken down into three types; public sector, strategic partnership and outsourcing. Though, the last two options are to a point the same, just varying levels of what is handed over to a private ‘partner’. It is interesting to note, there is an option in the thick JV of Libraries and One Stop Shops not being included, and staff being on secondment rather than, as is currently proposed, being transferred to BT.
The in-house option(s) fall into the following categories: a new wholly owned public company, Cornwall public sector shared services and a employee mutual. As part of the briefings, three Heads of Services (HoS), IT, Shared Services and Procurement gave their views on the in-house options and the amount of money that could be saved.
All three HoS said saving could happen with the in-house option. For IT, the savings over three years would amount to half of the target savings of 20%. Councillors were told this would include some job losses (roughly 10%), but these would be non-compulsory and would be achieved by natural ways like retirement etc.
Those services that are covered within shared services (OSS, call centre, Libraries etc) have identified 10% savings for the 2013/14 period for an in-house option. This equates to roughly £600,000. The HoS did say if more savings are required, difficult choices would have to be made, especially as 90% of this services cost are staff.
In procurement, again savings could be made, but it would also need investment to make sure those savings can be realised. This investment would also be a requirement for shared services and IT and this money would have to come from capital reserves.
At face value I reckon at least if not more (with more work) 50% of target savings could be made with the in-house options. If more work was done, I am sure more could be found without a drop in service to the public, or wholesale job losses. Surely that is better for staff and the public to have council controlled services, rather than relying on a contract between a private company and the council to make sure that service agreement is delivered?
However, even with the most robust contracts, there is always a very clever lawyer who finds the loophole which in most cases benefits the private sector, rather than a Government or council. History is full of public/private sector deals that have gone wrong, and it is the private company that comes out of it smelling of roses. Furthermore, from my investigations, I reckon as least 70% of shared services deals have failed to some point. Will Cornwall be lucky and be in the 30% success rate? Is that risk worth taking with tax payers money?
The feeling today that there still is not enough information, and I believe another briefing will take place before the December 11th meeting where this subject will be decided once and for all.