BT gets 'foot in the door' to run Cornwall's local services
Councillors in Cornwall have voted in favour of a "slimmed-down" version of plans to part-privatise services with telecommunication giant BT.
Yesterday, Cornwall Council voted in favour of working with the company to run telehealth and telecare systems, which the authority already operates with the NHS.
The services allow patients to, for example, take their own blood pressure at home, thereby negating the need for a visit to the GP or hospital. Such technology saves the NHS money and cuts down the council's Adult Social Care bill.
The plan councillors voted for is a watered-down version of a previous bid to sign a £300 million-a-year contract with BT. Under that blueprint BT would jointly run libraries, one-stop-shops, benefit payments as well as telehealth and telecare.
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But now libraries, one-stop-shops and benefit payments will remain firmly under council control. The decision was reached after a bitter wrangle among councillors over the original BT plan.
In September councillors of the Conservative-Independent led authority voted to put the initial BT bid on hold. However, the cabinet ignored the will of the chamber and forged ahead claiming the deal would save jobs and make savings.
The move cost former council leader Alec Robertson his crown after councillors ousted him in a vote of no confidence.
Before the final decision was reached yesterday councillors kicked the initial BT plan into the long grass in a vote of 71-31 in favour of ditching the move, with two abstentions.
An effort was also made to keep services in-house – but this was defeated 46 to 50. Had the bid succeeded BT would be out of the picture altogether.
As the show-of-hands vote for the eventual option with BT was so overwhelming, council officers did not record the vote.
Councillor Jeremy Rowe, who favoured the in-house option described the eventual successful option as "BT Lite."
He said: "It will give them (BT) a foot in the door – more or less a blank canvas for BT who could add bits if they want to. It's a slippery slope to me."
Councillor Chris Ridgers, who had preferred the initial deal with BT, said: "We would get guaranteed savings allowing us to protect jobs."
In a separate agenda item councillors also voted to change how decisions are made by the authority. They voted in favour of a new committee system to run alongside the cabinet.
Another debate resulted in councillors deferring a decision to approve a draft of the Cornwall Local Plan 2010-2030 for 49,000 new homes until January. Councillors said more work was needed.