Feeds

Union mourns Walsall's aborted IT privatisation

Questions over council decision

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Walsall Council has been such a shambles that even its union was looking forward to washing its hands of them, it has emerged.

Now it looks as if the two are stuck with each other after the council cancelled its plans to outsource key unionised services to the private sector. Unison, which represents the council's workers, is unhappy about the reversal - and not only because it was looking forward to doing business with smooth private sector operators.

Unison is so puzzled over the aborted deal, says regional organiser, Rick Tudor, that it will be asking official questions about the pre-sales expenditure at the next appropriate council meeting.

The reasoning behind the pulling of the privatisation is curious and the council has refused to adequately explain the arithmetic behind it.

Three years ago, when Walsall Council started negotiating a deal to give 1,500 staff and £500m to a private sector consortium, there was natural trepidation at Unison.

But union reps were soon won over by the men in sharp suits. Relations with the council had been so sour that the consortium, whatever its motives for a charm offensive, could reassure the union by merely treating its members civilly.

Walsall Council spent £1.4m and three years negotiating the deal, which would have seen Fujitsu Services manage certain council services with its partners Vertex and United Utilities. Neither Walsall nor Fujitsu will say how £1.4m could be spent on a deal that had yet to be signed.

Indeed, both parties gave excuses earlier this week ("confidential" and "don't know") for not revealing how much they had spent during the three years of negotiations, let alone what it went on. The answer to the latter is, presumably, pre-sales consulting - the sort of thing services companies like Fujitsu usually do free of charge in order to sweeten the deal makers.

The suppliers are a little confused as well. The reasoning the council gave for reversing its decision may need a little explaining. In a letter purporting to explain the decision to staff last week, council leader Tom Ansell complained about a £2m cut in 2006/07 financial settlement from central government.

It is not clear how a £2m cut in a gross budget of £580m could scupper a 12-year, £500m deal. Walsall Council even keeps a tidy financial reserve for use in emergencies. The council drew almost £2m from this fund in 2005 without causing any strain.

If, as the council and the companies claim, the outsourcing deal would have saved money over the medium term, it would have made sense to proceed with it and a £2m shortfall could have been absorbed by the savings made from the outsourcing - another figure the parties will not discuss.

Nevertheless, said Ansell's letter, as the £2m reduction would force Walsall Council to make cuts, especially in those under-performing services it had intended to outsource, it was implied that the Fujitsu deal could no longer stand up. It had been ring-fenced, said Ansell, so any cuts the council needed to make would fall disproportionately on those services the council retained.

Neither does this argument stand up to scrutiny. The only doubt the union expressed about the deal was that it would inevitably lead to "reorganisation" of those staff who were transferred to the private sector. That would have been Fujitsu's business and of no concern to the council as long as the consortium met its service level agreements. Any such reorganisation was expected and would have no bearing on council budgets.

Likewise, routine adjustments to the council budgets should have had no bearing on the Fujitsu deal.®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.