Cornwall Council settles on reduced partnership with BT

Members of Cornwall Council have finally agreed on a reduced joint venture partnership with BT that will see fewer staff and services transferred across to the new company, in what has been an ongoing and disruptive process to get the plans finalised.

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Members of Cornwall Council have finally agreed on a reduced joint venture partnership with BT that will see fewer staff and services transferred across to the new company, in what has been an ongoing and disruptive process to get the plans finalised.

The Council recently put the plans on hold after Council leader Alex Robertson was ousted from his position, due to ongoing internal disputes over the venture. 

Ex-deputy leader Jim Currie, who had briefly resigned over the outsourcing strategy, was later appointed as the council’s new leader.

Currie had sent a damning resignation letter to Robertson, claiming that he had ‘pushed the cause of retaining Council control over joint ventures as far as [he could] with the Cabinet’ and that the financial risks involved with the ‘rush’ into strategic partnerships was ‘unacceptable’.

However, members of the Council met yesterday and 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 BT, to a ‘slim venture,’ and in-house options.

Members at the meeting all pledged to put aside their personal views and to work together to implement the final wishes of the Council for the benefit of the people in Cornwall, said a spokesperson for the Council.

Following a wide-ranging discussion, the proposal to enter into a full strategic partnership was defeated by 71 votes to 30, with two abstentions.

Members also voted against developing an in-house option, before clearly voting in favour of a smaller, strategic option.

The decision will see IT support, document management and transactional services, such as payroll and invoice processing, transfer to the new company. Some 340 council staff will move across, 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.

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 create new jobs.

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