The Bickerstaffe Record

Being Labour, Breaking News, Cotterill on the Council

The Strategic Partnership: what do we really know?

01.25.11 | Comment?

As I set out here the other day, the Tories’ four year business planrelies heavily on the Council entering at the earliest possible opportunity into a ‘strategic partnership’ with Lancashire County Council and BT for the delivery of a significant number of what have euphemistically been called ‘IT-related’ services, but which include at least the following possible services: benefits, council tax, ICT, finance, legal/democracy, estates.

Under this arrangement, Borough Council staff would be moved over to County Council employment and then seconded to BT, or would be seconded directly.

As I set out in the earlier post, I am increasingly concerned that councillors don’t have access to the detailed information about the agreement between the County Council and BT, and are not therefore in a position to make a considered judgment.  This would be important at any time, but the problems associated with the contract between Liverpool City Council and BT for their joint venture (Liverpool Direct) only highlight how detail really counts.

I spoke to the Chief Executive designate of Lancashire County Council about my concerns yesterday.  He refused to send me the information I was after, and told me that because the Borough Council’s agreement would be with the County, and not direct with BT, I really didn’t need the detailed information on the agreement between the County and BT.

Well, that doesn’t sound like due diligence to me, but it was ab amiable enough conversation as soon as it became clear that I was’nt going to get what I wanted, and we at least agreed a facility for detailed briefings from County Council officers to borough councillors like me, once a proposed agreement between borough and county was on the table.   I will most certainly be availing myself of that opportunity, as I suspect it will only highlight the need for me to scrutinise the information I am currently being denied.

What struck me most, though, is that it appears there has been either no or very little sight of the BT/County Council agreement either by borough officers or Tory councillors, and that the business plan’s dependence on the Joint Venture Company appears to be little more than an expression of faith in BT rather than based on any real knowledge of what BT is offering.

I’ll be asking further questions about this apparently staggering state of affairs as time goes on, not least at Executive Overview & Scrutiny next week.

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