'Politically-driven' changes feared
A BUSINESS group has said it is concerned that plans to outsource dozens of council services could be scrapped due to "politically driven" changes at Cornwall Council.
The Cornwall Business Partnership (CBP) has written to council leader Jim Currie highlighting its concerns that the project could be jeopardised.
Cornwall Council was looking to form a joint venture with a private company to provide a raft of council services, including IT, payroll, libraries and benefits.
However the project came to a halt after councillors raised concerns about the plans to privatise services.
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As a result of the disagreement over the project, leader of the council Alec Robertson was voted out of his position and Mr Currie was elected in his place, with a new Cabinet appointed.
A review of the shared services project is under way with the council due to discuss the various options and make a decision on whether to go ahead with the joint venture.
CBP chairman Thelma Sorenson said: "Many businesses in Cornwall consider that the proposed Strategic Partnership for Support Services in Cornwall offers a real benefit for the council tax payers in the county at a time of severe economic uncertainty.
"From our understanding of the project, the proposals include very significant job creation, guaranteed 500 full-time employees, protection for transferred staff, £60.6 million guaranteed savings from core services and an even larger figure, £89 million, derived from improvements to procurement.
"These sorts of figures quite simply cannot be ignored, and that is before further cuts coming down the pipeline in respect of central government funding."
The concerns have been made as the council's single issue panel looking at the project made its final recommendations.
The panel, which was set up at the beginning of the process and has been monitoring the project throughout, has raised concerns about the number of guaranteed jobs and the potential extra costs of the project.
It has also recommended an experienced contract manager be appointed as soon as possible to oversee the project.
The panel has also said if the council decides not to proceed with the current proposal to form a partnership with BT, a new working group should be set up to consider the alternative options.
In its conclusion, the panel said in light of the changes at the council as a result of the project there "has been significant political failure in the leadership of this matter".
The council is due to discuss the issue on Tuesday.
From 10.30am on Tuesday go to www.thisiscornwall.co.uk to watch a live webcast of the council meeting.