Saturday, July 24, 2010

Partnership? No Thanks!

Here's an interesting report I tripped over on t'intraweb the other day. It is an audit report from September last year which runs through some of the failures of a "partnership" involving Capita and Swindon Council and should be required reading for any gullible local Councillors (or lazy senior officers) who are promoting such "partnerships" elsewhere in local government.

The report concludes that effective governance arrangements are not in place and that mechanisms to deal with non-performance are not working, and that the "partnership" isn't contributing to the "transformation" of the local authority. The report suggests that the Council wasn't adequately managing the "partnership" on the client side (it wasn't checking that it had actually received computers for which it was paying!)

Though written in the cautious and guarded language appropriate to such a document it is a fairly damning assessment - and interestingly it suggests that the failures it identifies are not unique. It reports that there are similar partnerships in Southampton and Blackburn with Darwen Councils and notes that "these Authorities have experienced very similar issues in contract/relationship management and delivery of service."

Such partnerships are a handy device for promoting a flow of public money for the benefit of private companies. Once locked in to a long term contract a local authority is trapped - or (as a more recent report to Swindon's Cabinet put it "The Council has entered into a 15 year partnership with Capita and the governance and reporting arrangements have been designed to ensure that the partnership remains focussed on shared successful outcomes for both parties, and transparent at all times. On this basis no alternative options are proposed.")

UNISON's analysis of the public services industry is all the more worth returning to now that the real Tories are back in charge...

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