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London council £1bn outsourcing plan survives vote

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An eleventh-hour attempt to kill London Barnet Council's billion-pound outsourcing plan has failed.

The "One Barnet" plan to commission government services from private companies - potentially including BT and Capita - will roll on after the Conservative Council leader of the London borough survived a no-confidence vote last night.

Labour forced the vote on Conservative council leader Richard Cornelius in an attempt to stall the strategy that will hand over government functions including planning, licensing, transport strategy and council helplines to private companies for the next ten years.

Cornelius survived by 33 votes to 24, winning on his argument that the mammoth outsourcing deal was the way to preserve services on a smaller budget, Cornelius said: "Outsourcing is not a dirty word - even Unison is outsourcing its IT department," reported Government Computing.

Labour councillors hit out about the lack of scrutiny of the bid, alleging that key documents and information about the bids had been withheld from councillors and the public.

"We know too little of the price," said Alison Moore, the Labour leader in the council.

Lib Dem peer Lord Monroe Palmer of Barnet's Audit Committee described One Barnet as a Ponzi scheme and said that the "councillors need to know the details of the bids that are recommended .. before we sign on the dotted line. I believe that this is too hasty a decision."

Cornelius replied that the documents had to be withheld because they were "commercially sensitive...and if released, it will damage competition".

We have asked the Barnet Labour party what details in particular have been withheld but have yet to hear back from them.

There are two separate contracts on the table in One Barnet. The first is a £750m deal for back office services, including all IT infrastructure, corporate procurement and a council wide call centre - which will be handed to either Capita or BT on 6 December.

The smaller £275m deal will be handed over in January 2013, and will see either Capita or EC Harris run the council's transport and environmental health services.

Cornelius claims that the billion-pounds deal will save £111m over 10 years, and £5m in the next year.

He added: "This process has been going on for three years, why is it an emergency now"? ®

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