Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Southwest One Part I

Welcome to my first posting on Southwest One - in what I hope will be a long series, fueled with all the information I am able to dig up on this highly suspect organisation.

The Bristol Blogger, James Barlow and MP Ian Liddell-Granger have done excellent work on it, hopefully I can continue.

A bit of background (mainly from the above sources)...

What is it?
Southwest One is a joint venture Shared Services Company formed of two Councils - Somerset and Taunton Dean, Avon and Somerset Police Constabulary, and IBM.

Why the controversy?

Take your pick from any number of reasons. Secrecy - The governance structure of Southwest One was branded "confidential" yet the company is funded by over £400m of public money. IBM have tried particularly hard to dodge the Audit Commission Act, which doesn't have the "commercial confidentiality" clauses the Freedom of Information Act had (but now doesn't, muahahaha). The Staffing Agreement document was kept from UNISON and other members of staff, and the document was apparently signed at 4am on a Satuday morning! IBM - they own 75% of the company, meaning they reap 75% of the profits (if Southwest One ever make any, which currently looks pretty unlikely). Finally, a wealthy of other dubious issues, including the fact that Avon & Somerset's Chief Constable's wife was in charge of the procurement/tender process on Taunton Dean CC's side. Hmmmm.

Is Bristol affected?

Yes, potentially. Southwest One has a framework agreement, covering all local authorities in the southwest (including of course Bristol City Council) and several public sector bodies signed up, which could become a large regonal shared service project. This means that they can utilise services provided by Southwest One without going through a tending/procurement process. Notice that whilst 22 authorities/public sector bodies are declared, 14 have chosen not to.

This could mean that Bristol City Council's IT and other shared services could be outsourced to Southwest One, along with quite possibly many other dubious/dodgy transfers. Only time will tell.


Beyond Excellence said...

You lot (Bristol that is) will probably be OK - so long as your organisations do proper due diligence and so on before entering into any agreement with SWone. It is us down here in Somerset who have the real gripes. This is because of the way it was pushed through - riding roughshod over democratic processes etc. etc. There is also a fear that it is / is going to cost us (Somerset tax payers) a lot more than anyone else, because we have underwritten the whole scheme. This means that we have borne all the start-up costs and most of the risk. IBM of course get all the profits. Future customers should have a choice that was not offered to Somerset: to join or not to join. If they do their job properly then that choice should be based on how beneficial the deal is for them. God I'm naive!

Bristol Dave said...

Thanks for the comment BE. I suspect given BCC's attitude to, well, pretty much anything, their due diligence won't be at all diligent, and we'll end up providing IBM with a load of profit anyway.

Old Holborn said...

Excellent work

Keep it up.

Old Holborn said...

Oh sorry, should have mentioned I've just busted Kerry McCarthy