Feeds

Auditor applauds Walsall

But what lessons learned?

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The Audit Commission has applauded Walsall council for jilting Fujitsu Services after three years in which the two haggled as the services that were counting most on the deal suffered.

Nevertheless, Walsall has improved most of its services without needing to use private companies at all. The auditor's support for Walsall's conduct in the negotiations, as well as its final decision to give Fujitsu the boot, is unequivocal.

The Audit Commissions's 04/05 Annual Audit and Inspection Letter for Walsall, due to be published at the end of March, ratifies the preliminary rating published by the Audit Commission in December, but includes additional commentary about January's collapse of talks with Fujitsu.

What the report lacks is a clear indication of what lessons other councils can learn from Walsall's experience. At £500m, it was going to be the biggest of its kind in the UK. Birmingham, Europe's largest council, Gateshead and Swindon are all working on similar deals.

Walsall's own Conservative-led Scrutiny Panel's report into the Conservative Cabinet's decision is similarly unenlightening, though it recognizes the "excellent work" of its compadres in minimising costs and making the right decision.

Yet the service that was counting most on the deal being struck, benefits, appears to be poorer for all the haggling. The time it takes to process new benefits claims has increased from almost seven weeks to almost ten weeks in the last four years.

Still, when talks started Walsall was recognised by the Auditor as a "weak" council. It has since won an overall three out of four stars and the moniker "improving well". Some improvements were done using tips picked up from Fujitsu, according to the council leader, although some services improved after being commandeered by central government.

It may arguably not be the role of either the Scrutiny panel or the auditor to look for lessons to share. But no-one else has the access or the authority to do it.

The council proper refuses to say what lessons can be drawn from its own mishap by other councils about to spend unprecedented chunks of £billions on novel outsourcing arrangements.

Such lessons might help other councils avoid wasting so much time and money on abortive deals. Advice on the contractual minutiae wouldn't go amiss: contractual liability blew the Fujitsu deal and is likely to put the frighteners on customers and suppliers around the country as they haggle over similar deals .

Even as Walsall embarks on fresh talks for something to replace the proposed "strategic partnership" with Fujitsu, the Audit Commission has had to draw Walsall up on its accounting, which was £8m out of kilter after the implementation of an Oracle Financials computer system.

The staff have since learned how to use their computers, but the council's coffers are £5m short of grants they had overlooked before.

Other deals with the private sector have faired better for Walsall. An arrangement with Serco has been credited with helping the council make a 64 per cent improvement in its education services. Perhaps there are one or two things Walsall can teach itself about outsourcing before it gives lessons to anyone else?®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
DVLA website GOES TITSUP on day paper car tax discs retire
Welcome to GOV.UK - digital by de ... FAULT
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.