British Council takes the leap

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My last blog focused on public sector offshoring; low and behold the week that the blog gets published, The Times prints a story on how the British Council is offshoring 100 jobs to India. Of course this announcement sparked a furious debate amongst the public, unions and the upper echelons of the public sector. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) are considering lodging a tribunal application in response.

Since the impact of the downturn the UK has been terrified about offshoring work, believing that by doing so, it is in some way harming its own economy.

Public sector offshoring is considered a particularly dirty sentence and is approached with such a great deal of caution that it is astonishing the British Council managed to get this far. It is however no surprise that the public sector is looking to make use of offshoring. It has a £35bn efficiency target and is predicted to have budget cuts of up to £50bn, how could it not explore the possibility of offshoring?

The general public need to see the bigger picture. More often than not organisations will be using these offshoring locations to conduct lower level work retaining much of the higher level operations on shore. The savings gained should allow for more money to be ploughed back into the economy and into front end services. Quite simply, if the UK government refused to offshore/outsource the economy as a whole would suffer further blows and tax payers would almost certainly see a reduction in service.

The British Council did get a few things horribly wrong however. The NOA continually stresses the point that clear and transparent communication is one of the most important aspects of a successful outsourcing/offshoring operation.

Interested parties such as unions should always be included in outsourcing discussions from the outset. If the PCS had been brought in at an early stage, the British Council may have saved itself a huge amount of aggravation. Organisations should always be wary of keeping people in the dark about outsourcing.

Governments need to ensure maximum value for money in any project they undertake, especially during a time of financial turbulence. Protectionist attitudes towards offshoring will hinder the chance for the public sector to maximise efficiency and turn cost savings into tax cuts for the public.

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