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Cornwall chokes on £300m local gov deal with IT kingpins

CSC doesn't like the smell of the pasty, BT eyes loot

Cornwall Council has stalled a £300m ten-year deal to outsource its call centres and other IT systems to the private sector.

The county's councillors voted 93-0, with seven abstentions, to put the brakes on the contract, snubbing BT and CSC which had each put in bids for the huge cash pot. The move came after 6,000 people signed a petition against the deal.

The council's chief executive was then urged by councillors to investigate other ways of providing IT and tech support, such as setting up an employee-led mutual organisation or sharing services with the local NHS. A full council meeting will later analyse all the options before taking the project further.

CSC and BT had promised to shave £5m off the yearly cost of maintaining those services. According to Cornish councillor Andrew Wallis, who sat in on a confidential council briefing on the IT project, CSC pulled out earlier this month, but BT said it will leave its offer on the table until March 2013.

The driving force behind the deal - Conservative councillor Alec Robertson - is another casualty of the controversial plans: he was council leader until a vote of no confidence dethroned him last week.

The projects covered by the contract include: document management, websites and contact centres, and an integrated internal helpdesk.

According to Cllr Wallis, the decade-long deal would transfer 750 council staff and 250 health workers to BT. The telco had promised to create 1,043 jobs in the first four years. ®

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