Cornwall Council has agreed a slimmed-down, reduced contract with BT following resident concern over handing control of ‘customer facing’ services, such as libraries and one stop stops, council tax and debt collection.
Members of the council voted in favour of entering into the reduced partnership with BT, which will involve the transfer of fewer Council staff and services but will, the council says, still enable the authority to work with the company and its health partners to attract investment and create new jobs by developing areas such as telehealth and telecare.
Members at Wednesday’s meeting of the full Council spent almost four hours debating a report from Chief Executive Kevin Lavery which set out a range of potential options ranging from the original proposal for a “thick venture” strategic partnership with private sector company BT; to a “slim venture” with BT involving a smaller number of Council services, and an in house option.
The Council has spent the past eighteen months developing a proposal to enter into a partnership with health organisations and a private sector company to help generate savings to protect against further cuts in Government funding and attract investment and jobs into Cornwall.
Following a wide ranging discussion over the main options, the proposal to enter into the full strategic partnership with BT was defeated by 71 votes to 30, with two abstentions. Members then voted against developing an in-house option, before voting clearly in favour of the smaller, strategic option. Under this option IT support, document management and transactional services such as payroll and invoice processing will transfer to the new company. This would see around 340 council staff moving to the company, along with 154 staff from health.
This means that the “customer facing” services which attracted the most public concern, including libraries and one stop stops, procurement, Council Tax, Business Rates and debt collection, benefits and assessment and the customer call centre, will continue to be delivered by the Council .
This option will also enable the Council to work with health partners and BT to develop telecare and telehealth and achieve additional savings by further integrating health and social care services.
Proposing the reduced partnership option, Fiona Ferguson, the Council’s portfolio holder for corporate resources, said it would still deliver substantial savings for the Council and would help protect services, save money and create jobs.