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'Failing' Southwest One comes under fire from Somerset County Council leader

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: February 16, 2012

Ken Maddock

Councillor Ken Maddock launched a blistering attack on the public-private partnership Southwest One

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A controversial venture set up to save taxpayers millions of pounds has lost £31 million and is so inflexible that it is making the job of finding savings even harder.

The Conservative leader of Somerset County Council, Councillor Ken Maddock, launched a blistering attack on the public-private partnership Southwest One at the council’s packed budget-fixing meeting yesterday.

The ill-fated initiative was set up in 2007 by the former Liberal Democrat administration with IBM, Avon & Somerset Police and Taunton Deane Borough Council, to provide backroom services.

But it has saved the council only £10 million of the £50million it was originally projected to save by this stage of the ten-year contract.

It aims to save £150 million over the full ten years. The company’s losses are borne by IBM. Despite the disastrous South West One partnership, Mr Maddock has admitted the council is looking at further private sector partnerships.

At the meeting the council froze its element of the council tax and cut £24 million from its budget, including savings on support for older people and the disabled, and slashed cash for 35 bus routes.

The council has said that its need to cut costs is due to a cut in Government funding but Mr Maddock was also scathing in his criticism of Southwest One. He said: “As an administration we inherited a partnership that promised a huge amount, but it was not delivering.

"Southwest One’s accounts year on year show losses, staggering losses just published of £31 million, and failures to hit modest savings targets. We have bent over backwards to try to make this partnership work.

"But we have to state clearly that our primary duty in looking after the public’s hard earned money is to make sure we get the best possible deals, that we get the best possible value for the public’s money.

“I have to say that Southwest One is failing this test. We are currently looking at all our services and all our contracts to see whether we are doing the best we can for our customers, whether we are providing the best possible services for our customers and at the best possible prices for our customers.

“We need a council that can cope with future government cuts and rising demand.

“Sadly, Southwest One is failing. It is failing to deliver promised savings; failing to cope with a changing financial landscape; failing to be flexible enough to adapt in challenging times and provide the best possible value for money.

“To make up for this failure, we will now accelerate our extensive review of everything that the council does.

“Almost half our most vital services are carried out by private sector or not for profit organisations – we will look to increase this where appropriate. We will encourage social enterprises, partnerships, communities and voluntary groups to get more involved in what we do.”

Mr Maddock stressed that his criticism was not aimed at staff working for the company but at the company itself.

Bridgwater MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, who is one of Southwest One’s sternest critics said: “Well done, Ken. He has been saying what I have been saying for the last five years.”

South West One did not reply to requests for comment.

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  • Charlespk  |  February 18 2012, 1:37PM

    Yet another fiasco. . So do Common Purpose have anything to do with this one also. http://tinyurl.com/46uybh

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  • IBM_Out  |  February 18 2012, 12:11PM

    Now they are blaming each other! Is anyone in charge of this expensive fiasco. Southwest One "Failure" Warnings Ignored By Conservative County Council Leader Ken Maddock 17 Feb 2012 Sam Crabb, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Somerset County Group has criticised the leadership of Somerset County Council in their "failure to manage" Southwest One (SWOne). Somerset County Council's Leader, Conservative Councillor Ken Maddock, outlined during Wednesday's Full Council meeting that Procurement Savings due from the SWOne contract were still not being met. Southwest One is a joint venture partnership set up between Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, and Avon and Somerset Police, and IT and business management provider is IBM. IBM contractually promised to deliver the sum of £200 million of savings over the 10 year lifetime of the partnership, beginning in 2007. Sam Crabb, leader of the Liberal Democrat Somerset County Group said: "I have now warned the Tory Leader of Somerset County Council three years in a row about the problems with SouthWest One. He has totally ignored those warnings. "Indeed, he sat on a critical cross-party report for a whole year, before he took any sort of action at all. "Three years, three warnings, three failures. Failure to get IBM and SWOne to achieve savings, failure to hold SWOne to account, and a total failure by Ken Maddock to do anything about it. "The Leader is right to talk about failure, but it is his failure. It is his fault that our services are being slashed, his fault that massive savings have not being achieved. "We were promised by IBM the sum of £200 million of savings over the 10 years life of the contract. Four years in and we may have achieved 5% of that. That is disgraceful. The Tories claim they understand business, yet they blame complicated contracts. "The Tories should not be even contemplating cuts to front line services, like the Young Carers budget, the Youth budget, and bus subsidies. The Tories should not be selling off the family silver, our precious land in the Quantocks. They should be looking to cut the County Council's costs and not frontline services. "Action is long overdue. Get on with it Ken."

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  • Taki123  |  February 16 2012, 2:04PM

    If they had a shred of honesty they would get proper jobs and pay the money back, even if it were just fifty pee a week!

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