Somerset

'Secret' £600m SouthWest One deal to be renegotiated

A controversial £600m contract to outsource Somerset council jobs to a private company is being renegotiated.

The county council said as its budget was tight, it wanted to change its contract with SouthWest One and bring some services and staff back in-house.

SouthWest One handles accounts, call handling, payroll and human resources.

The deal, which started in 2007, had promised savings of about £180m for the county council over 10 years but has so far only delivered £5m.

However the council said it was on track to save £100m by 2017.

'Secret' panel

SouthWest One is a joint partnership deal between Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, Avon and Somerset Police and IBM.

Critics have claimed the deal is secretive and not open to scrutiny.

In a report, the county council said the renegotiation would be led by a "secret" panel of councillors which would include Conservative and opposition Liberal Democrats councillors.

The actual details will be confidential because the council said it did not want to compromise its commercial interests, and by extension the interests of Somerset's taxpayers.

Unison said it was in favour of staff going back in-house but it wanted more transparency.

Avon and Somerset Police said its contract with SouthWest One was good and had been managed well.

Taunton Deane Borough Council said it was confident the contract was delivering what it was meant to and it had no plans to renegotiate.

SouthWest One was unavailable for comment.

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