Public Services > Local Government

Cornwall Council panel recommends strategic partnership with BT

Charlotte Jee Published 25 February 2013

Cabinet due to make final decision on whether to invite BT to tender


Cornwall Council's Single Issue Panel (SIP) has recommended that the Cabinet should continue setting up a joint venture with BT, despite the withdrawal of one of the health partners.

The Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust (RCHT) pulled out on 1st February, citing "changes to the scope of the project and consideration of legal advice."

The partnership was significantly watered down from its initial form in December 2012 when the council voted to reject a full joint venture (JV) and instead opt for a 'thin' JV, meaning that BT, the sole remaining bidder, would only oversee telehealth, telecare, ICT and document management, with all other departments and services remaining in-house.

In its recently-published final report into the proposed joint venture, the SIP said that the RCHT's reasons for departure "gave cause for concern", as they suggested that the process could be open to legal challenge. However, having sought its own detailed advice from law firm Eversheds, the SIP concluded that there is no reason to halt the process, despite "a small but manageable risk" regarding a challenge.

However, the report welcomed the fact that the RCHT and Cornwall Council IT Services had already been working together constructively, and said that this should be encouraged to continue.

The SIP also noted council officers' remarks that the 'thin' JV offer will not match the original level of savings but is still a "good deal" and worthy of consideration, and that "the current proposals are in accordance with the views expressed by the full council."

The Cabinet was originally due to hold an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday 27th February, however this has been postponed to an as yet unspecified new date. During the meeting, it will decide whether to issue an invitation to BT to submit a formal tender for the strategic partnership. According to council documents, if the invitation to tender goes ahead, the contract award will be announced on 13th March and, after a standstill period, confirmed on 25th March. The target implementation start date is 1st July 2013.

The SIP recommended that the council prepare a comprehensive legacy document setting out the need to scrutinise the implementation plan for the strategic partnership and the need to monitor governance throughout its lifetime. Furthermore, the report said that, should a tender be received from BT, as expected, a 'value for money' exercise should be undertaken, with conclusions reported to the cabinet before any contract award.

The report also strongly recommended that, after the forthcoming elections on 2nd May 2013, early in the life of the new council, a "wide ranging 'lessons learnt' exercise should be undertaken" by the SIP, in order to create a set of guidelines to help the council when negotiating and forming similar large-scale projects with private or public sector actors in future.

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