Public Services > Local Government

Barnet council leader survives confidence vote

Charlotte Jee Published 07 November 2012

Last-ditch attempt by opposition to derail £1bn 'One Barnet' outsourcing contracts fails

Barnet Council's leader Richard Cornelius survived a confidence vote yesterday over the controversial £1bn One Barnet outsourcing plan by 33 votes to 24.

Barnet Council is due to award two separate 10-year contracts through One Barnet in the next couple of months, with BT, Capita and EC Harris in the frame.

Addressing the council to propose a motion of 'no confidence in Barnet's Conservative leader and cabinet', Labour councillor Alison Moore, said, "we are now at the eleventh hour, with a decision (on one of the contracts) due on 6 December".

She said that there had been a lack of scrutiny, with cabinet refusing to release all the relevant documents. Moore said that the administration had failed to consider alternative ideas of proposals, arguing that a comparison of in-house and outsourced options should have been done at the start of the process.

Pointing to councils in Somerset, Edinburgh and Cornwall, she said that they have all "pulled back from the brink", adding that "big outsourcing contracts just do not cut the mustard anymore".

On One Barnet, Labour councillor Kath McGuirk added, "it is nothing more than a con is not about more for less, it is about less for less".

However, Conservative councillors strongly defended the plans. Council leader Richard Cornelius said "this process has been going on for three years, why is it an emergency now"? He added:"Outsourcing is not a dirty word- even Unison is outsourcing its IT department". He blamed those opposed to the project for disseminating "propaganda" and suggested that much of it was funded by trade unions.

Deputy leader councillor Daniel Thomas started by saying, "There is no real emergency this evening". He said "vested interests need to learn when it is time to allow progress to take its course". In reply to councillor Moore, he said that the certain documents relating to the contracts had not been released as they are "commercially sensitive...and if released, it will damage competition".

Thomas said that the One Barnet project followed a logic of "invest to save", adding that "like all modernisation programmes, there are costs involved" but "it can save millions of pounds". He said "there has been no credible alternative proposed".

The first contract, which is worth between £600 and £750m and will be awarded to either Capita or BT, will create of 'the New Support and Customer Services Organisation' (NSCSO), allowing a private contractor take over a variety of service areas including IT infrastructure and support, customer services, finance and payroll, and corporate procurement.

The supplier is due to be announced by the end of 2012 and they will start to run the NSCSO in April 2013.

The second contract, titled the 'Development and Regulatory Services project', is expected to be awarded in early January and will see either Capita or EC Harris gain a £275m contract to run the council's transport and environmental health services. According to the council, the preferred bidder will be selected later this year and services will move to the new provider next spring.


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