Since the 1st December, BT Cornwall (BTC) and Cornwall Council have been locked in a legal battle in the High Court over the BT contract. The reason is because the Council believes it has the right to terminate the agreement for breaches in that contract by BTC. Of course, BTC disagrees with this.
To recap, BTC filed an application with the High Court in order to seek an injunction on 12 August 2015, preventing the Council from terminating the agreement. This resulted in a hearing which took place on 12 August 2015 in the High Court (Commercial Courts). The outcome was that the Court agreed to the request to have an expedited trial set for December.
As for the reasons why, please read the previous blog post HERE.
Anyone who has been reading this blog, will know I have written a lot (all blog posts HERE) about this subject. Reading back through them reminds me how the Council was in open warfare against the Cabinet. There were petitions; the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Jim Currie resigning and the no-confidence motion which saw the disposing of the Leader of Cornwall Council. It was a bloody and costly war that saw the BT-light deal being signed on the 27th March 2012. I finished off that post with the line of: ‘Lets hope the Council does not regret this day’.
Today, the Judge gave his judgement after hearing the evidence from both sides. I am very pleased the judgement was in favour of the Council. This judgment which confirms our argument that BT Cornwall had been in material breach of the contract due to their failure to carry out services to the required contractual standards and, therefore, that the Council was justified in reaching the decision to terminate the contract.
The ruling also means that the Council will be seeking payment of its costs from BT Cornwall in connection with this legal action. From this, the Council intends to hold discussions with BT Cornwall to agree the level of damages the Council will receive. This could run into the millions.
I would also like to say well done to the Council’s legal team who took on the might of an international corporation – and won.
Has the Council regretted that day? I have thought about this and it would be easy to say ‘I told you so’ but that would serve no purpose. However, it is clear the principle of outsourcing great swathes of public sector to commercial companies who have little, if any, understanding of the public sector is flawed.
I feel the reason why so many council’s took the outsourcing route is because they thought it was an easy way of saving money. The commercial companies were quick to whisper sweet nothings into any local government ear promising to solve their funding problems. The truth be told, local governments, are better at knowing how to save money. They do this without thinking of how it will affect the profit margin. Local government do not think about profit margins, but how changes will affect the service user.
Following this legal ruling the Council intends to provide notice of termination of the contract before Christmas, but there will be no immediate change in the arrangements as termination will not take effect until January. The process of transferring staff and services from BT Cornwall to the Council and our Public Sector Partners will begin in January and will be completed as quickly and smoothly as possible. This will involve approximately 250 members of staff.
The following services will transfer back to the authority: HR Transactional Services including Payroll, HR Employment Support, First Point Helpdesk, Financial Processing, ICT, Despatch, Printing and Telecare. My thoughts are with the staff who will yet again be affected with this judgement.
I will now wait till the judgement is released to give a further viewpoint……