Friday, 15 March 2013

Conservatives rush through privatisation at the last minute

With weeks until the elections, where with any luck the Tories will be dethroned, they are rushing through the slimmed down privatisation. Despite the thousands who signed petitions against the scheme and the vote of the full chamber against the Joint Venture for Shared Services aka outsourcing staff and services, the Conservative- Independent administration still press ahead. With a vote at the cabinet with the notable exception of the Independent Bert Biscoe voting against the scheme. If this situation isn't farcical enough only BT are going to bid to take over employment of council staff and deliver services. I don't see the benefits or privatisation, despite the claims nowhere do private sector outfits deliver the same service and make a profit. Consider for a moment the great work done by the Doctor's cooperative Kernow Doc which since being taken over by Serco has been slammed by all and sundry and patients have been left with an inadequate out of hours GP service. (Like PFI and other expensive public- private partnerships a New Labour legacy). Even if I put my skepticism aside for a moment, how can a competitive tendering process be undertaken with one partner? BT is now at liberty to offer whatever price and terms it likes with no competitor to push the price down and level of service up. I firmly believe we would get ripped off in this deal but under these terms the scope for this happening is greatly increased.

I had an email from a campaigner from Somerset by the name of David Orr. Who sent me his observations of Somerset County Council's failing joint venture with IBM. He suggests the only way BT can square the circle of running a service for less, yet create jobs and make profit will require an healthy does of pixie dust. His comments below:


IBM made exactly the same improbable claims prior to signing Somerset up for Southwest One. 
 
5
years later in 2013: 
 
- Fewer local Council jobs
- No new private jobs
- No promised iconic building for a SW1 HQ (an empty demolition “bomb” site in the town centre where it was meant to be built)
- No new business or revenue
- Procurement contracts now out of County & SW Region
- Business apparently unprofitable – SW1 has made losses in every year of trading, requiring parent company guarantees and for Councils to indemnify the Councillors who are Directors on the SW1 Board
- No true net savings made for Councils (in fact higher net/true costs)
- All new or changed IT requirements to support change are an add-on cost said to be “holding Somerset Council back through inflexibility”
- No IT replacement costed into the contract, so now a 6+ year old ageing & risky IT infrastructure (see risk log extract from this week below)
- Local Council IT skills degraded and key SAP skills offshored to India degrading Councils’ contract exit ability
- High Court contract dispute to be heard in November - broken relationships, no mutual trust or respect
- Many service (KPI- measured) levels lower (see internal audit extract from this week below) as an inadequately resourced & skilled contract management client in Councils cannot verify the service levels measured & reported by SW1 (on themselves).