Shared Services Still Rumbling On

The confidential briefing on the JV took place today at County Hall.  Even though the briefing was marked as confidential, I checked with legal to ask what I could and could not say. Saying that, I still believe what I am about to blog is in the public interest, and will defend that right if anyone wants to say otherwise.

The first announcement of the day was one of the bidders has pulled out. CSC have decided not to progress with their venture, and informed the Council yesterday! Maybe it would have been nice to know as it happened. Not over 24 hours later.

This leaves BT as the only bidder in the process, and today they gave their presentation of how they are the best company to deal with. To stick within the rules, I will not be discussing the financial figures, even though they are important to the bid.

The first point I will clarify is if the contract is awarded to BT, all staff that are transferred WILL be transferred to a wholly owned company of BT. So the staff will not be employed by the Council but BT.  In the deal, 750 council and 250 ‘health’ staff will be transferred. If that is not outsourcing I do not know what is!

BT has promised to create 1043 jobs in the first four years. However, 38% of those jobs will be low-skilled. This is not a made up figure, but taken from the presentation today. My understanding is many of the higher-skilled jobs will be in health. I am really worried the 396 will be low-skilled and low paid because why would a company pay more than the going rate in the area. This point was raised by many Councillors and they were concerned with this aspect of the bid.  I know a job is a job, but when it could be little more than the national minimum wage, I do not think that is good enough.

Much emphasis was also placed on a lot of services being ‘self-service’. In other words by the dreaded soul-destroying call centre and you having to push more numbers than is in a complicated maths equation. I know I hate this type of service, and would imagine many others are in the similar view.

While I am grateful for BT being open about their deal, and their presentation was very good; I am though concerned it is business as usual and yesterday’s fun and games is being treated like it never happened. I am also worried with only one bid in the running, which could be to the advantage of BT.

I guess everything now will rest on the 23rd to see if the Council finally gives the killing blow to the current proposals, or allows it to go ahead.

Roll on the 23rd!

7 comments

  • Howard

    Hi Andrew

    Were the 1043 ‘new’ jobs? Or did they count jobs transferring from the council as new jobs?

    To create the jobs were they moving jobs from another BT centre in the country?

    Did they say that these jobs would only be supported if their business grew by a certain volume?

    Fascinating.

  • Tehmina Goskar

    Continued thanks for being the small voice of transparency we need in Cornwall, particularly regarding the unnecessarily shadowy world of Cornwall Council.

    The track record of BT as a company in Cornwall is poor. The telephone lines that bring most of us our telephone and internet (which is what many including me rely on for my business) is what they are meant to do best, and yet, particularly here in Penzance, there has been a litany of problems with poorly-installed lines, poorly maintained lines and broken lines which have taken weeks to fix because of a shortage of engineers–that doesn’t say much for their commitment to employing people when they are needed. The to-ing and froing between different companies of BT just creates confusion, e.g. Openreach (engineers, infrastructure) and BT (serviced by Indian call centre who suffer frustrated customers as they persevere with their scripts). To say nothing of the superfast fibre roll-out that seems to have been done in such a peculiar manner that a major urban centre like Penzance is still left with failing copper while lucky Stenalees is up and running.

    So why would Cornwall Council employ the same company to take care of the Duchy’s other essential infrastructure?

    Isn’t it anti-competitive, part of the alleged benefit of privatisation and outsourcing, to only have one company in the bidding?

    If the self-service suggested by BT is anything like its ‘service’ for its traditional offerings we are doomed.

    It seems from your report of their presentation that so much detail is still lacking. We as residents and voters have still been given NO information from our representatives about the actual changes we would see under the Joint Venture.

    Will we be phone expensive 0845 and 0870 numbers for example? This will really impact of people who can’t afford a land line and rely on their mobiles.

    What is BT’s track record in providing such services?

    If BT fails and the JV turns into a financial disaster, what safeguards would be written into the contracts to ensure they don’t litigate against the local authority and leave council tax payers carrying the can?

    The jobs promise sounds completely hollow. Will there be a penalty written into the contract to ensure they compensate the Council if they don’t create the number and range of jobs promised?

    Low-skilled? What do they mean by that? Are we going to lose skilled librarians in favour of people whose experience is working on a shop floor as has happend in the libraries of other regions in the UK?

    BT is ultimately responsible to its shareholders. That means that council tax payers’ money will be prioritised for profit and dividends. How is this going to benefit the Cornish economy?

    And this business of the JV company providing services to other UK local authorities. What is the point of this?

    So many questions. Why can’t we ask them? Who can we ask? Will we get answers if we ask?

  • granny

    …and now that there’s only one candidate, why can’t you publish their offer…its hardly commercial confidentiality…not that I’ve ever really understood the concept anyway…I thought the free market was based, amongst other things , on perfect information…

    One further point…why on earth haven’t we retained 51% ? If the major concern with outsourcing public services to the private sector is that we’d loose the ability to do ‘the right thing’ in the face of commercial imperative why we haven’t sought to retain ultimate control is beyond the in cynical me…

  • worried worker

    I think I’d rather take my chances within the Council than be shipped off to some Battery Farm Call Centre reading from a script and transfering calls into the ether.

  • Good questions. I will be releasing more details soon on the costs and alleged savings.

    As for retaining 51% of the company would be the right move if this was a real joint venture. However it is not, as I pointed out in my blog the staff will be transferred to BT and will be employees of BT not the council. So unless the council brought 51% of BT it has no say apart from a client contract to provide certain services.

    Outsourcing this is, a joint venture it is not

  • In my experience and that of many other 99% of BT staff, phone operators are of foreign origin, that is they are unable to speak English clearly and therefore cannot be heard or understood . What use is this to customers trying to make a query,get help fixing internet problems, connections etc|?
    We must NOTallow our library and other services to be outsourced, permanent well paid employment and training facilities for our young people areessential. PS

  • Pingback: Further reading: the Cornwall council and NHS outsourcing rebellionSA Mathieson

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