Southwest One's costly failures

February 16, 2012 2:16 PM

IT firm Southwest One has already been the subject of one my earlier blogs when it was revealed that their automated computer programme had sent out duplicate payments totalling £4.6 million. Now, the leader of Somerset County Council (SCC) has launched a blistering attack on its failure to save taxpayers’ money.

‘Southwest One’s accounts year on year show losses,’ Cllr Ken Maddock told a full council meeting, ‘staggering losses just published of £31million, and failures to hit modest savings targets.’

Southwest One—a public sector shared service joint venture set up in 2007 between Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, Avon and Somerset Police, and computer giant IBM—was supposed to improve payments made to council suppliers, but failed to achieve this following a series of calamitous mistakes.

‘We have bent over backwards to try to make this partnership work,’ said Cllr Maddock, ‘but we have to state clearly that our primary duty in looking after the public’s hard earned money is to make sure we get the best possible deals, that we get the best possible value for the public’s money. I have to say that Southwest One is failing this test.’

‘It is failing to deliver promised savings,’ he continued, ‘failing to cope with a changing financial landscape, failing to be flexible enough to adapt in challenging times and provide the best possible value for money. To make up for this failure, we will now accelerate our extensive review of everything that the council does. Almost half our most vital services are carried out by private sector or not for profit organisations – we will look to increase this where appropriate.’

But what can SCC do about this? Can they break their 10-year contract with the company? In the meantime, Taunton Deane Borough Council, one of the key partners with Southwest One, was the only council in the South-West to announce an increase in council tax earlier this month by 3.45%. Were its ruling councillors feeling the pressure of money-savings failures by Southwest One?

‘We made that proposal,’ said Taunton Deane council leader, ‘because the finances of the council are deteriorating in the medium to long term and we did it to plan for the future.’ If so, his council taxpayers would have been yet another victim of Southwest One. However, the latest news from Taunton Deane is that opposition councillors and dissent from within the ruling party have forced a U-turn and Taunton Deane has dropped its plans to raise council tax.IT firm Southwest One has already been the subject of one my earlier blogs when it was revealed that their automated computer programme had sent out duplicate payments totalling £4.6 million. Now, the leader of Somerset County Council (SCC) has launched a blistering attack on its failure to save taxpayers’ money.

‘Southwest One’s accounts year on year show losses,’ Cllr Ken Maddock told a full council meeting, ‘staggering losses just published of £31million, and failures to hit modest savings targets.’

Southwest One—a public sector shared service joint venture set up in 2007 between Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, Avon and Somerset Police, and computer giant IBM—was supposed to improve payments made to council suppliers, but failed to achieve this following a series of calamitous mistakes.

‘We have bent over backwards to try to make this partnership work,’ said Cllr Maddock, ‘but we have to state clearly that our primary duty in looking after the public’s hard earned money is to make sure we get the best possible deals, that we get the best possible value for the public’s money. I have to say that Southwest One is failing this test.’

‘It is failing to deliver promised savings,’ he continued, ‘failing to cope with a changing financial landscape, failing to be flexible enough to adapt in challenging times and provide the best possible value for money. To make up for this failure, we will now accelerate our extensive review of everything that the council does. Almost half our most vital services are carried out by private sector or not for profit organisations – we will look to increase this where appropriate.’

But what can SCC do about this? Can they break their 10-year contract with the company? In the meantime, Taunton Deane Borough Council, one of the key partners with Southwest One, was the only council in the South-West to announce an increase in council tax earlier this month by 3.45%. Were its ruling councillors feeling the pressure of money-savings failures by Southwest One?

‘We made that proposal,’ said Taunton Deane council leader, ‘because the finances of the council are deteriorating in the medium to long term and we did it to plan for the future.’ If so, his council taxpayers would have been yet another victim of Southwest One. However, the latest news from Taunton Deane is that opposition councillors and dissent from within the ruling party have forced a U-turn and Taunton Deane has dropped its plans to raise council tax.

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