The Bickerstaffe Record

Being Labour, Cotterill on the Council

Apology accepted, but the question remains

04.26.10 | Comment?

In my recent top speed review of Full Council, I said the following about the motion on the outsourcing of IT services being planned secretly by the Tories (for the back story see here and here:

Finally, we were told by the leader that in the ‘7 Days’ email  sent to staff on 04 December 2009 position in respect of this outsourcing project had been set out.  I see no such reference in that email and I have requested clarification from the Chief Executive.

I have now had that clarification.  There was indeed no such article in 7 Days.  I have received an apology for having being misled in this way in public debate.

In terms of the mistake that led to me being misled, I am happy to leave it there.  Mistakes happen, and we move on.

Yet the fact that staff have STILL not been told what is going on, and that Labour councillors only know about it because a friend of mine spotted something in Computer Weekly, is a very serious matter.

The 04 December ‘7 Days’ email to staff and councillors did not carry relevant information as originally planned because a ‘more comprehensive’ account was planned for a subsequent edition.

Yet in the past four months this ‘more comprehensive’ account of what the County Council is planning has not been provided.  Nor was there any explanation made about what was going on in Full Council, where the Portfolio Holder for Finance simply said that no decision had been taken so that it wasn’t worth discussing. 

This is a ridiculous position to take. As it stands, the Council’s four month Forward Plan contains no reference to the matter, and is therefore unlikely to come before Cabinet before the end of August.  Yet the outsourcing arrangements are due to come into force just two months after that.

Compare this with the outsourcing of leisure services five or six years ago.  Then, when the Tories bothered with something along the lines of the democratic process, there were discussions and a specific task group set up for months before the final decision came to Full Council. Labour may not have liked the result, but at least it was democratically legitimate.

This time, there are no such niceties. 

Plans are being carried forward behind closed doors for the sell off of all services which relate to ‘customer access’ in the council (the term ‘IT-related services’ conceals the real scale of the outsourcing).  Yet the council will tell us nothing, and by the looks of it the Tory leader didn’t even bother to look at the edition of 7 Days he referred to in council. Had he done so he would have spotted there was nothing there.

And even when  the error is brought to light, there is no action.   A responsible Council would have acted immediately by writing to staff and unions to explain the error and set out the matter in hand with due urgency, given it is now nearly 5 months since the council ‘intended’ to come clean.  Instead, we are promised news at some point, but with no commitment as to when. 

This Tory council’s attitude  transparency, and its total disregard for the staff it claims to hold in high esteem, is a disgrace.

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