Shared Services and the BT Briefing: Pt2

Yesterday, I blogged about some of the details on the proposals from BT. Further clarification has now been given on what is confidential and what is not. The basic rule of thumb is now; as long as it is not marked confidential, it is not.

Instead of just writing from the presentation, I thought I would just use the relevant slides, so people can clearly see what Councillors saw. The first slide is on the job front, and the 1043 job split. (see below).

Like I pointed out on the previous blog post, these new jobs are in Health and BT related. Not many Council function jobs is there? In fact 331 one of the jobs will be in BT retail. Sorry, I can just imagine when you call the Council to talk about council tax or benefits, you could get asked a series of questions on your phone package…

Now onto the savings and profit slide:

I did ask the question on how do these figures stack up if one or more of the other partners like the RCHT do not enter into the partnership. I was told, the figures would change, but at the time they could not give me those figures. They did however say they would send me them.

Lastly, the slide on staff ‘benefits’ and other services that could be provided as part of the deal:

There is another 12 slides of PR etc, none of them I can see is marked confidential, so if you really want to see pretty pictures and colourful diagrams I can post them.

Is this JV still a good idea??


  • H

    Perhaps you could ask BT to provide an example of where they have saved £149 million in another shared service JV with the public sector. How exactly will they come up with the savings? Will it be from the sale of buildings or job losses? And if BT make £80 million profit from the deal, the promise to invest £42 million doesn’t really mean that much, as they are merely redirecting public money back into public services (whilst retaining £38 million).

  • karen Campbell

    Dear Andrew,
    These are worrying and fairytale figures with no possible grounding in reality. They truly are plucked from the air. What about inflation.? And as you say, what about health partners? Who know what will happen over ten years. ? What about the fact that health might well be taken over copletely by (say) Serco or Virgin ? What then? (as has already happened in Devon). There is no real breakdown of these figures and the jobs drill down is very poor, – counting the actual new jobs on one hand.
    This is not good for Cornwall and the benefits are hard to see. This is corporate flannel. And, I would argue – if it is true that Cornwall Council has taken on an consultant from BT at £1K a day, there is a conflict of interest there.

    K Campbell

  • mick martyn

    The fundamental question for me Andrew is whilst you are blindly campaigning for this to stop, what do you propose for the alternatives to solve the cuts that the council is facing?? i understand from shared services alone that there are over £1m savings required next year so how would you propose these are saved…library/one stop shop closures, benefit backlogs, phone queues?? From what i can understand re the bt offer there is a guarantee of savings + they are contractually committed to keep everything open and at least maintain performance, the unions have agreed enhanced terms for staff and they have a no compulsory redundancy policy – i would welcome your views and answers please……………

  • mick martyn

    ..sorry, one further point – you diss the prospect of over 500 new jobs in cornwall as there arent may council ones, this is an unbelievable statement so as an alternative you would rather see job cuts?????? + i would have thought someone of your ‘stature’ in the community would understand that you are elected to represent the community of cornwall, not just the council, i really hope that common sense comes through next week and members who are thinking of voting for this to stop realise that they are actually voting for council services to be cut and staff made redundant next year with worse to come in the following years

  • Gill Martin

    Having signed the petition to stop the joint venture/privatization of services, I did subsequently wonder about some of the points raised in the post by mick martyn. I do find mick martyn’s post very interesting. It is a shame, in my opinion, that the public were not kept better informed of both sides of the story. It is much better to be able to make an informed opinion as opposed to one made on guess work.

  • mick martyn

    Yes Gill, very valid comments and i think it speaks volumes that Councillor Wallis seems reluctant to comment after stirring up so much publicity based on half baked theories, i wonder how he will talk himself out of this if this partnership gets voted out tomorrow and the truth then comes out regarding the alternatives……

  • Andrew Wallis

    I am not reluctant to answer. I still stand by my views. After all this is about Council services and the majority of the jobs are health related (as the slide will show). I cannot comment on the health side, because that is not within my role. It is interesting to note, that many of these ‘call centre’ jobs will be created with or without the JV. A further point is if procurement is taken out, no company would be interested. I wonder why?

    As for an alternative, no other was seriously investigated to any depth. So, how do we know another plan is not better?? We don’t, because none was investigated. A further concern is at first this was a ‘soft JV’, but changed in a blink of an eye to a ‘hard JV’. That is a concern for many. too.

  • Johns

    Sorry Mick I can’t agree.

    Your faith in contractual obligations and their ‘guarantee’ is touching, but put simply – what happens if these obligations are not met in a couple of years’ time.

    At that point most of the computer hardware currently owned by the public sector may have morphed into a data centre (somewhere), technical skills will have transferred out of the council and a number of systems may be half completed – such as some of the health record scanning propositions.

    So does the public sector then simply pull the plug?

    Take a look at the disputes during the recent history of private provisions – Suffolk Council and the National Programme for IT being two examples and South West One being another. I’m sure the NPfIT contract was full of just the sort of obligations you hold in such store.

    I have serious doubts in the achievability of a business model which proposes £42 million investment, £150 million saved, service levels maintained, and over 1000 jobs created – whilst I would suggest achieving profits for shareholders. I also eagerly await the opening of Marmalade Mines across Cornwall.

    The alternative to the JV? … well the public sector working together (Council and Health)without BT would remove the profit motive and this hasn’t been fully examined as an alternative to a potential 15 year tie into a private company. .

    Indeed you ask what are the alternatives. This is an entirely valid point. The Council and the Health Trusts should examine these with much more rigour than currently exercised. Then a decision can be made based on merit whilst considering fully the various other options available. This is one of the points that Andrew is making and in doing so he is correctly representing his ward.

    Health and Council staff do not appear to have an appetite for the proposed JV, neither do the Unions, nor the Single Issue Panel, and nor to date the majority of the Council. Even CSC have pulled out leaving Cornwall with a single bidder for the tender.

    At the very least it is time for a very robust look at other options before we ‘sell’ the farm.

  • Johns

    Sorry Martyn, I can’t agree.

    Your faith in contractual obligations and the guarantees you believe they bring is touching but I don’t share it.

    Put simply what happens if these obligations aren’t met in a couple of years? By then under the JV we may have transferred our publicly owned computer hardware into a data centre somewhere, transferred our skillsets out of the Council and we may be half way through some of the JV developments such as scanning Patient Records for our Health Trusts.

    Do the Public Sector then simply pull the plug?

    I suggest you look at the recent disputes arising from public/private ‘partnerships’ – such as Suffolk Council, the National Programme for IT and Somerset Council. I’m sure NPfIT for example had lots of the contractual obligations you seem to place such store in – but read some of the National Audit Office reports about value for (public) money.

    I would like to see much more rigour exercised in exploring alternatives. Your question highlights exactly the absence of appropriate analysis of these.

    So far Health and Council staff seem to have little appetite for the JV, nor do 6000 signatories of a public petition, nor do the majority of the Council, nor do the Single Issues Panel, nor do the Unions. Even CSC have pulled out – leaving a single tenderer.

    I would suggest that Andrew is certainly representing views appropriately – it’s just appears that you personally don’t happen to agree with quite a body of opinion here.

  • shirley yeo

    Councillor Wallis i am extremely disappointed that you have not directly answered Mr Martyn’s questions and have hid behind generalisations and this theory that you and fellow councillors have not had time to understand the alternatives. Firstly I want to know why you and fellow councillors haven’t taken the time to understand the implications of the BT deal sooner and have waited all this time before speaking up? I also want to know what you will do about job losses and reduction in services if the BT deal falls through? I am fed up with jumped up local councillors trying to play big boy politics and forgetting the real people affected by their incompetence i.e the public and the staff. It would seem you, Rowe and Folkes are trying to make names for yourselves, I would have thought Folkes would have kept his head down since the debacle of him not paying his council tax. No wonder Cornwall has a reputation for being insular, i am disgusted by the goings on over the last few weeks and the embarrassment it has brought on this county, it makes me ashamed to be Cornish.

  • Mick Roberts

    In reply to Shirley Yeo I think you will find that Cll Wallis has not ‘hid behind generalisations’. If you have read his previous posts you will be aware that he has also been unable to take the time to understand the alternatives because, quite simply and correct me if I am wrong, the cabinet has not proffered any alternative. The Cabinet of the council has pursued this ‘one track pony plan’, which by accounts in the press has so far cost £1.8 million, without considering any other options. Moreover, they have been reluctant to share vital information about the proposed joint venture due to ‘commercial confidentiality’. Indeed this was the reason why in a previous dedate the council were still unable to discuss the details because, they chose by a majority vote to discuss it in open forum, rather than behind closed doors. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer to have decisions about future services in the county being discussed openly by my elected representative, rather than by an appointed cabinet, who appeared at one stage to be accountable to nobody but themselves.
    I too am disgusted by the goings on over the past few weeks. But I am disgusted by the previous leader and the cabinet, who made wholly undemocratic decisions, failed to speak for the people and put the interests of a multinational company ahead of the Cornish electorate. I don’t think Cll Wallis has anything to be ashamed of, he appears to me to be doing what he has been voted to do: represent the people.
    If you are really are worried about ‘jumped up local councillors trying to play big boy politics and forgetting the real people affected by their incompetence’ I think you are aiming your dissatisfaction in entirely the wrong direction. It is the cabinet that got themselves into this mess and it is through the actions of Cll Wallis and more than 6,000 voters that have got us out of it!
    If you really want to understand what has been going on I suggest you read the following blog posts from an entirely independent investigative journalist:

  • mick martyn

    Well said Shirley! If nothing else we cant say this topic hasnt captured the imagination of us Cornish! In my opinion Cllr Wallis, Mick and Johns views are so blinkered its unbelievable, there is a serious offer on the table here to commit to national centres and growth in Cornwall but no!! lets find reasons not to do it so we can continue being Cornish, next we’ll be burning down the tamar bridge and trading in turnips (at least Councillor Cullimore would be happy – might even but a new t shirt). Anyhows, back to this topic, the speakers of note today were messrs Double, German and Kerridge – all spoke with passion and utmost common sense and i am sure that when all the options are on the table in the near future this one will still be the best one but at least Cllr Wallis will still be a man of the people with his 6000 (out of how many in Cornwall) signatures, the public i have spoken to didnt really know what they were signing for as thought it was about closing libraries. Never mind, let common sense prevail, the scaremongers have had some fun now its time for the sensible people to make this happen – its all about growth and is Fundamental and Critical!!! but be careful if you cross the road tonight in the dark, its risky!!

  • Andrew Wallis

    To answer some of the previous questions:

    If alternative proposals were worked up, then Councillors could have examined them. The point is they were not. Despite many requests from Councillors to do so. It is hard to look into other options when there is resistance not to do this. Now finally, the full Council has ruled alternatives are worked up. Maybe then, we will be able to look at all the options.

    A concern was the proposals changed from a soft JV, to a hard JV. This was because CSC wanted this. So as part of the ‘competitive dialogue’ they other bidder followed suit. When in reality, they liked the soft option. In fact, the normal procurement procedures the Council uses were not used, and the competitive dialogue (a new system) was. If you used the normal procurement procedures, the bids scored so low, they would not have been acceptable.

    As for jobs, I do not think there is one Councillor who does not want more jobs in Cornwall. However, these jobs have to be at least the living wage. Not the minimum wage.

    One of the most frustrating parts of this whole episode was the lack of information available to Councillors. It was asked for, but the line of ‘commercial sensitivity’ was rolled out all the time. So, it was almost impossible to get correct and up to date information. At the meeting in Sept an excuse was used that Councillors could not have all the information because the debate was in open session. I asked for this ‘extra’ information the following day. Guess what, there was not extra information….

    Even up to the briefing with BT it was still claimed it was not outsourcing. However, it made it clear that the current proposal on the table by BT was the outsourcing of staff. They would become employees of BT, not the Council. All pensions and other work related items would be transferred out of the Council and into BT.

    No one has ever said, there could not be some sort of partnership working. The Council and Health do it now. The Police and the Council too. It would be logical to look into more, too.

    My main concern in all of this was Council services would still be provided to at least the same standard. I am still concerned that some sort of service level agreement (contract) would not be as watertight as it looked on paper. Big companies employ very clever lawyers to look at every line in a contract to see ways of saving more money. Or in worse cases getting out of a contract (like other JV’s). To add to this point, a former commercial lawyer who is now a Councillor said quite publicly, she would not know where to start to write a complicated contract like this and it was fraught with danger.

    As for the goings on the last few weeks were not good, I agree. However, sometimes in extreme circumstances, these actions have to be taken. No-one wanted to go down this road, and many attempts were made to see if something could be done, but it fell on deaf ears.

    Lastly, yesterday, was a good day for democracy and 93 Councillors voted for the amendment. No-one voted against. This is because everyone realised the motion on the table was what everyone wanted in the first place. It is just a shame it did not happen.

    Thanks for commenting on the blog.

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