Cornwall’s Shared Services and the Not Forthcoming Information
The recent battle within the Council on the Strategic Partnership for Support Services has attracted a lot of attention from around the country in both online and the more traditional paper methods. It has been interesting to read many of the various articles and many throw an interesting spotlight on the subject.
Two are from Computer Weekly, with the first: HERE
It certainly throws up various points like the way BT is going around saying Cornwall Council and BT are already in a partnership:
“We are already in three competitive bid situations for Telehealth/care with Australia Telehealth, Northumbria Telehealth and Hampshire Telecare; where we have named Cornwall as our partner,”
I think it is a little premature of BT to be going around the country and the world saying Cornwall is our partner, when that very partner, Cornwall Council and its elected membership has said, we are not interested in your outsourcing plan. Even at the so-called confidential briefing to Councillors, one of the BT Execs made this comment. It so startled me, that I wrote it down thinking ‘cheeky so and so’s saying that when you don’t have the contract.’
The second article from Computer Weekly: HERE talks about other providers being in competition with Cornwall’s JV. It is a point I raised in the full council meeting in September. I made the point with so many sellers out there, who is a buyer? It is not hard to find details from around the country of JV’s being set up to try to take over other Council services. Talk about a crowded market. That’s until the big boys buy up all the contracts. Then there will not be much competition for the best deal.
The disaster that Southwest One has turned into (with different partners) originally started out thinking it could take on the services of the whole of the South West, when that failed; it looked elsewhere in the country. The Southwest One venture is still not going well, and has headed to the courts to be settled.
The Computer Weekly article also points out that if Southwest One sorts itself out, it could actually be more competitive than Cornwall Inc. Just Imagine Cornwall Inc finding itself being sold on to another provider, or taken over? It is a real possibility. This highlights the danger of losing direct control of services and then finding out you are owned by some company on the other-side of the world because of a company balance sheet.
Going back to the Councillor briefing and all the pretty slides which made a great play on savings. In all of the documentation I have been allowed to see, there is no business plan, forecast, or details on how the x-amount will be saved. Just a headline figure, which looks nice, but means little.
Furthermore, the Single Issue Panel whose hard-work highlighted so many issues with the proposals has requested details on the forecasts/savings. It has yet to receive them. Even more worryingly, and I have recently received confirmation to the fact, the business plan will not be received until the Council has received an invitation to tender. On both counts, the forecast and business plan are critical to investigating if a deal is creditable beyond pretty headline figures. And both of these are not available.
I really believe if this deal was so sweet, those in favour of it would be only more than willing to show these details to prove they are right. Or has it not been shown to the wider council membership because it could contain controversial elements. Even the past Council director, Ms Stewart talked about a J-curve (job losses first, and then jobs). You cannot help wondering what else is being hidden if the information is less than forthcoming.
You cannot help but think BT thought they were home and dry before the first motion, the no-confidence motion, and the petition firmly threw a box full of spanners into the machinery. It also adds to the suspicion that CSC was merely there to make up the numbers. This rumour had been doing the rounds for a while at County Hall.
More concerning, senior managers are still going about selling BT. My real fear is the ‘alternative’ options will be hurriedly put together, without the time needed to fully investigate them. Then it will be sold that BT is the only option. And we have a fait accompli deal for BT
This whole deal is starting to stink worse than a three-day old fish left out in the sun. But at least the Council via it elected has made it very clear, any contract will only be given if the majority of the Council agrees to it. Convincing ten Councillors is a walk in the park compared to trying to convince 123 (yes, yes I know, you only need 62 for a majority).
BBC Radio 4 covered outsourcing of public services to private providers today with Public, Private, Profitable