Monday, 31 March 2014

BT or not BT?

Last week I attended a meeting (held in closed session)  about the Council's deal with BT.

Another closed door meeting
When the original deal with BT became mired in controversy in 2012 I brought a proposition to  Council that we should enter into a much smaller deal, which limited the activities of the BT contract to back office functions and joint working with health organisations.

Improving outcomes for people's health and making our money for health go further has to be one of our most important priorities.
I was disappointed but not surprised that RCHT felt unable to be a partner in the deal at that time. With all the political grandstanding that went on it would have been difficult to take the Council seriously.

I also believed that we should try to salvage part of the deal to limit the damage that the Council might otherwise suffer. If the Council did not behave responsibly it would be more difficult to persuade private sector companies to tender for complex projects in the future.  With the financial challenges the Council faces, it makes sense to look at different ways of working to mininise cuts to front line services.

So that we could add to the deal if we wanted, I asked for an option to include additional services at a later date.  BT granted the option which expires today (Monday 31st March).

It is disappointing that last Thursday was the first serious meeting we have had to discuss whether to extend the deal. The Council has apparently negotiated a time extension on the option to 30th September. But I am concerned that even that, given the progress made so far, may not be enough to work out whether it makes sense to increase the services in the deal and, if so, to obtain Council support.

Some of those who toppled the Leader of the Council because of his support for the original deal (or just sheer opportunism) are now in the Cabinet. They refer to BT as "our partners BT Cornwall" and plan to build an office building in Bodmin for BT to share with the Council (although  BT has given no commitment to take up the space).  So perhaps  there will be a different outcome this time.

If the Liberal Democrats take a different view this time, I expect that they will say it is all to do with the financial challenges the Council now faces.  Any such argument would suggest an inability on their part to see economic realities which were even then staring us in the face. Not a marvelous situation when they are in charge of  the Council's budget.

Let us hope there is more careful thought this time as to the best result for Cornwall and less political games.

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